Free radical-induced contractile protein dysfunction in endotoxin-induced sepsis

L. A. Callahan, D. Nethery, D. Stofan, A. DiMarco, G. Supinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Recent studies have indicated that sepsis is associated with enhanced generation of several free-radical species (nitric oxide [NO], superoxide, hydrogen peroxide) in skeletal muscle. It is also known that this enhanced free-radical generation results in reductions in skeletal muscle force-generating capacity, but the precise mechanism(s) by which free radicals exert this effect in sepsis has not been determined. We postulated that free radicals might react directly with the contractile proteins in this condition, altering contractile protein force-generating capacity. To test this theory, we compared the force generation of single Triton-skinned diaphragmatic fibers (Triton skinning exposes the contractile apparatus, permitting direct assessment of contractile protein function) from the following groups of rats: (1) control animals; (2) endotoxin-treated animal; (3) animals given endotoxin plus polyethylene glycolsuperoxide dismutase (PEG-SOD), a superoxide scavenger; (4) animals given endotoxin plus Nω-nitro-L-arginine methylester (L-NAME), a NO synthase inhibitor; (5) animals given only PEG-SOD or L-NAME; and (6) animals given endotoxin plus denatured PEG-SOD. We found that endotoxin administration produced both a reduction in the maximum force-generating capacity (Fmax) (i.e., a decrease in Fmax) of muscle fibers and a reduction in fiber calcium sensitivity (i.e., an increase in the Ca2+ concentration required to produce half-maximal activation [Ca50]). L-NAME and PEG-SOD administration preserved Fmax and Ca50 in endotoxin-treated animals; neither drug affected these parameters in non-endotoxin treated animals. Denatured PEG-SOD failed to inhibit endotoxin-related alterations in contractile protein function. Sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of skinned fibers from endotoxin-treated animals revealed a selective depletion of several proteins; administration of L-NAME or PEG-SOD to endotoxin-treated animals prevented this protein depletion, paralleling the effect of these two agents to prevent a reduction in contractile protein force-generating capacity. These data indicate that free radicals (superoxide, NO, or daughter species of these radicals) play a central role in altering skeletal muscle contractile protein force-generating capacity in endotoxin-induced sepsis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-217
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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