Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) is a tetramer made up of two different subunits A and B. In cellular models, severe hypoxia increases LDH A gene expression whereas LDH B gene does not exhibit any regulation. The aim of our work was to characterise LDH expression in different tissues of rats bred at high altitude. For this purpose, we chose a Sprague–Dawley rat strain adapted to chronic hypoxia in La Paz (3700 m), Bolivia. Two normoxic control groups were bred at low altitude in Clermont-Ferrand (350 m), France, one group was ad libitum with free access to food and water as was the hypoxic one, and the second normoxic group was nourished with the food intakes measured for the animals from La Paz. We measured total LDH specific activity, isoform distribution and LDH A and B mRNA amounts in three skeletal muscles (soleus, extensor digitorum longus (EDL), plantaris), heart and brain. Our study demonstrates that, unlike what has been shown in cellular models under severe hypoxia, LDH A gene is not systematically up-regulated in tissues of rats living at high altitude. Furthermore, chronic hypoxia limits LDH B gene transcription or its mRNA stability in both soleus and EDL. These regulations occur at various molecular levels like gene transcription, mRNA stabilisation or translation and protein stability, depending on the tissue studied, and are partly attributed to caloric restriction provoked by high altitude. These data provide insight into LDH gene expression underlying the diverse and complex tissue-specific response to chronic hypoxia. J. Cell. Biochem. 89: 67–79, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.