• skeletal muscle;
  • membrane potential;
  • cell volume;
  • control


Regulation of cell volume is a fundamental property of all animal cells and is of particular importance in skeletal muscle where exercise is associated with a wide range of cellular changes that would be expected to influence cell volume. These complex electrical, metabolic and osmotic changes, however, make rigorous study of the consequences of individual factors on muscle volume difficult despite their likely importance during exercise. Recent charge-difference modelling of cell volume distinguishes three major aspects to processes underlying cell volume control: (i) determination by intracellular impermeant solute; (ii) maintenance by metabolically dependent processes directly balancing passive solute and water fluxes that would otherwise cause cell swelling under the influence of intracellular membrane-impermeant solutes; and (iii) volume regulation often involving reversible short-term transmembrane solute transport processes correcting cell volumes towards their normal baselines in response to imposed discrete perturbations. This review covers, in turn, the main predictions from such quantitative analysis and the experimental consequences of comparable alterations in extracellular pH, lactate concentration, membrane potential and extracellular tonicity. The effects of such alterations in the extracellular environment in resting amphibian muscles are then used to reproduce the intracellular changes that occur in each case in exercising muscle. The relative contributions of these various factors to the control of cell volume in resting and exercising skeletal muscle are thus described.