In this study, we aimed to clarify the effects of chronically applied static magnetic field (200 Gauss) on specific ATPase activities and bioelectrical and biomechanical responses in the isolated rat diaphragm muscle. The mean activities of Na+-K+ ATPase and Ca2+ ATPase determined from the diaphragm homogenates were significantly higher in the magnetic field exposed group (n = 20), but that of Mg2+ ATPase was nonsignificantly lower compared to the control group (n = 13). Resting membrane potential, amplitude of muscle action potential, and overshoot values (mean +/- SE) in the control group were found to be -76.5 +/- 0.6, 100 +/- 0.8, and 23.5 +/- 0.6 mV, respectively; these values were determined to be -72.8 +/- 0.4, 90.3 +/- 0.5, and 17.2 +/- 0.4 mV in the magnetic field-exposed group, respectively. The latency was determined to increase in the experimental group, and all the above-mentioned bioelectrical differences between the groups were significant statistically. Force of muscle twitch was found to decrease significantly in the magnetic field-exposed group, and this finding was attributed to the augmenting effect of magnetic field on Ca2+ ATPase activity. These results suggest that magnetic field exposure changes specific ATPase activities and, thence, bioelectrical and biomechanical properties in the rat diaphragm muscle. (C) 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.