Systemic O2 transport during maximal exercise at different inspired PO2 (PIO2) values was studied in sodium cyanate-treated (CY) and nontreated (NT) rats. CY rats exhibited increased O2 affinity of Hb (exercise O2 half-saturation pressure of Hb = 27.5 vs. 42.5 Torr), elevated blood Hb concentration, pulmonary hypertension, blunted hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction, and normal ventilatory response to exercise. Maximal rate of convective O2 transport was higher and tissue O2 extraction was lower in CY than in NT rats. The relative magnitude of these opposing changes, which determined the net effect of cyanate on maximal O2 uptake (VO2 max), varied at different PIO2: VO2 max (ml. min-1. kg-1) was lower in normoxia (72.8 +/- 1.9 vs. 81. 1 +/- 1.2), the same at 70 Torr PIO2 (55.4 +/- 1.4 vs. 54.1 +/- 1.4), and higher at 55 Torr PIO2 (48 +/- 0.7 vs. 40.4 +/- 1.9) in CY than in NT rats. The beneficial effect of cyanate on VO2 max at 55 Torr PIO2 disappeared when Hb concentration was lowered to normal. It is concluded that the effect of cyanate on VO2 max depends on the relative changes in blood O2 convection and tissue O2 extraction, which vary at different PIO2. Although uptake of O2 by the blood in the lungs is enhanced by cyanate, its release at the tissues is limited, probably because of a reduction in the capillary-to-tissue PO2 diffusion gradient secondary to the increased O2 affinity of Hb.
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