Research abstract:

Post-exertional malaise is commonly observed in patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, but its mechanism is not yet well understood.

A reduced capacity for mitochondrial ATP synthesis is associated with the pathogenesis of CFS and is suspected to be a major contribution to exercise intolerance in CFS patients.

To demonstrate the connection between a reduced mitochondrial capacity and exercise intolerance, we present a model which simulates metabolite dynamics in skeletal muscles during exercise and recovery.

CFS simulations exhibit critically low levels of ATP, where an increased rate of cell death would be expected. To stabilize the energy supply at low ATP concentrations the total adenine nucleotide pool is reduced substantially causing a prolonged recovery time even without consideration of other factors, such as immunological dysregulations and oxidative stress.

Repeated exercises worsen this situation considerably. Furthermore, CFS simulations exhibited an increased acidosis and lactate accumulation consistent with experimental observations.


  • Metabolite dynamics in skeletal muscles are simulated during high intensity exercise.
  • We take into account exercise induced purine nucleotide loss and de novo synthesis.
  • A reduced mitochondrial capacity is assumed for CFS patients.
  • CFS simulations exhibit critically low levels of ATP and a prolonged recovery time.
  • Additionally an increased acidosis and lactate accumulation is observed in CFS.

In silico analysis of exercise intolerance in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, by Nicor Lengert & Barbara Drossel in Biophysical Chemistry, 4 April 2015 [e-publication before print].

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