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The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of hypoxia on energy metabolism and contraction of rat urinary bladder smooth muscle, thereby gaining insight into the capacity of this smooth muscle to maintain contractile function when rendered hypoxic.Isometric force, oxygen consumption, lactate production, heat production and unloaded shortening velocity were measured in isolated muscle strips under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Muscle strips were bathed in physiological saline solution with the anaerobic condition being created by replacing the oxygen bubbling the solution with nitrogen.During contraction under anaerobic conditions, the rate of lactate production was increased 2.5-fold above that observed under aerobic conditions. This, however, only provided for a rate of ATP production of approximately 30% of that measured under aerobic conditions. Despite this, force maintenance was only slightly depressed, indicating that the metabolic cost of contraction was reduced in hypoxia. In support of this, the rate of heat production during contractions in anoxia was only approximately half of that under aerobic conditions, whereas, again, force was only slightly lower. Unloaded shortening velocity was significantly lower in anoxia, suggesting a slower cross-bridge turnover rate.The results indicate that the economy of force maintenance is increased in bladder smooth muscle under hypoxic conditions and that this is due, at least in part, to a reduced rate of cross-bridge cycling. This may help to preserve bladder contractile function during periods of ischaemia that may be associated with bladder filling and emptying.