SS31, a mitochondrially targeted antioxidant, prevents sepsis-induced reductions in diaphragm strength and endurance

Gerald S. Supinski, Lin Wang, Elizabeth A. Schroder, Leigh Ann P. Callahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Sepsis-induced diaphragm dysfunction contributes to respiratory failure and mortality in critical illness. There are no treatments for this form of diaphragm weakness. Studies show that sepsis-induced muscle dysfunction is triggered by enhanced mitochondrial free radical generation. We tested the hypothesis that SS31, a mitochondrially targeted antioxidant, would attenuate sepsis-induced diaphragm dysfunction. Four groups of mice were studied: 1) sham-operated controls, 2) shamoperated SS31 (10 mg kg1 day1), 3) cecal ligation puncture (CLP), and 4) CLPSS31. Forty-eight hours postoperatively, diaphragm strips with attached phrenic nerves were isolated, and the following were assessed: muscle-field-stimulated force-frequency curves, nerve-stimulated force-frequency curves, and muscle fatigue. We also measured calpain activity, 20S proteasomal activity, myosin heavy chain (MHC) levels, mitochondrial function, and aconitase activity, an index of mitochondrial superoxide generation. Sepsis markedly reduced diaphragm force generation; SS31 prevented these decrements. Diaphragm-specific force generation averaged 30.2 ± 1.4, 9.4 ± 1.8, 25.5 ± 2.3, and 27.9 ± 0.6 N/cm2 for sham, CLP, shamSS31, and CLPSS31 groups (P 0.001). Similarly, with phrenic nerve stimulation, CLP depressed diaphragm force generation, effects prevented by SS31. During endurance trials, force was significantly reduced with CLP, and SS31 prevented these reductions (P0.001). Sepsis also increased diaphragm calpain activity, increased 20S proteasomal activity, decreased MHC levels, reduced mitochondrial function (state 3 rates and ATP generation), and reduced aconitase activity; SS31 prevented each of these sepsis-induced alterations (P 0.017 for all indices). SS31 prevents sepsis-induced diaphragm dysfunction, preserving force generation, endurance, and mitochondrial function. Compounds with similar mechanisms of action may be useful therapeutically to preserve diaphragm function in patients who are septic and critically ill. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Sepsis-induced diaphragm dysfunction is a major contributor to mortality and morbidity in patients with critical illness in intensive care units. Currently, there is no proven pharmacological treatment for this problem. This study provides the novel finding that administration of SS31, a mitochondrially targeted antioxidant, preserves diaphragm myosin heavy chain content and mitochondrial function, thereby preventing diaphragm weakness and fatigue in sepsis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-472
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Physiological Society. All rights reserved.


  • Diaphragm fatigue
  • Diaphragm force generation
  • Neuromuscular transmission
  • SS31
  • Sepsis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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