Neutral sphingomyelinase 2 is required for cytokine-induced skeletal muscle calpain activation

Gerald S. Supinski, Alexander P. Alimov, Lin Wang, Xiao Hong Song, Leigh A. Callahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Calpain contributes to infection-induced diaphragm dysfunction but the upstream mechanism(s) responsible for calpain activation are poorly understood. It is known, however, that cytokines activate neutral sphingomyelinase (nSMase) and nSMase has downstream effects with the potential to increase calpain activity. We tested the hypothesis that infection-induced skeletal muscle calpain activation is a consequence of nSMase activation. We administered cytomix (20 ng/ml TNF-α, 50 U/ml IL-1β, 100 U/ml IFN-γ, 10 µg/ml LPS) to C2C12 muscle cells to simulate the effects of infection in vitro and studied mice undergoing cecal ligation puncture (CLP) as an in vivo model of infection. In cell studies, we assessed sphingomyelinase activity, subcellular calcium levels, and calpain activity and determined the effects of inhibiting sphingomyelinase using chemical (GW4869) and genetic (siRNA to nSMase2 and nSMase3) techniques. We assessed diaphragm force and calpain activity and utilized GW4869 to inhibit sphingomyelinase in mice. Cytomix increased cytosolic and mitochondrial calcium levels in C2C12 cells (P < 0.001); addition of GW4869 blocked these increases (P < 0.001). Cytomix also activated calpain, increasing calpain activity (P < 0.02), and the calpain-mediated cleavage of procaspase 12 (P < 0.001). Procaspase 12 cleavage was attenuated by either GW4869 (P < 0.001), BAPTA-AM (P < 0.001), or siRNA to nSMase2 (P < 0.001) but was unaffected by siRNA to nSMase3. GW4869 prevented CLPinduced diaphragm calpain activation and diaphragm weakness in mice. These data suggest that nSMase2 activation is required for the development of infection-induced diaphragm calpain activation and muscle weakness. As a consequence, therapies that inhibit nSMase2 in patients may prevent infection-induced skeletal muscle dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L614-L624
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 18 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 the American Physiological Society.


  • Calpain
  • Cytokines
  • Diaphragm
  • Sepsis
  • Sphingomyelinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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