Free radical-mediated skeletal muscle dysfunction in inflammatory conditions

Gerald S. Supinski, Leigh A. Callahan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Loss of functional capacity of skeletal muscle is a major cause of morbidity in patients with a number of acute and chronic clinical disorders, including sepsis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure, uremia, and cancer. Weakness in these patients can manifest as either severe limb muscle weakness (even to the point of virtual paralysis), respiratory muscle weakness requiring mechanical ventilatory support, and/or some combination of these phenomena. While factors such as nutritional deficiency and disuse may contribute to the development of muscle weakness in these conditions, systemic inflammation may be the major factor producing skeletal muscle dysfunction in these disorders. Importantly, studies conducted over the past 15 years indicate that free radical species (superoxide, hydroxyl radicals, nitric oxide, peroxynitrite, and the free radical-derived product hydrogen peroxide) play an key role in modulating inflammation and/or infection-induced alterations in skeletal muscle function. Substantial evidence exists indicating that several free radical species can directly alter contractile protein function, and evidence suggests that free radicals also have important effects on sarcoplasmic reticulum function, on mitochondrial function, and on sarcolemmal integrity. Free radicals also modulate activation of several proteolytic pathways, including proteosomally mediated protein degradation and, at least theoretically, may also influence pathways of protein synthesis. As a result, free radicals appear to play an important role in regulating a number of downstream processes that collectively act to impair muscle function and lead to reductions in muscle strength and mass in inflammatory conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2056-2063
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Nitric oxide
  • Sepsis
  • Superoxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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