Hindlimb unloading increases oxidative stress and disrupts antioxidant capacity in skeletal muscle.
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Skeletal muscle disuse with space-flight and ground-based models (e.g., hindlimb unloading) results in dramatic skeletal muscle atrophy and weakness. Pathological conditions that cause muscle wasting (i.e., heart failure, muscular dystrophy, sepsis, COPD, cancer) are characterized by elevated "oxidative stress," where antioxidant defenses are overwhelmed by oxidant production. However, the existence, cellular mechanisms, and ramifications of oxidative stress in skeletal muscle subjected to hindlimb unloading are poorly understood. Thus we examined the effects of hindlimb unloading on hindlimb muscle antioxidant enzymes (e.g., superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase), nonenzymatic antioxidant scavenging capacity (ASC), total hydroperoxides, and dichlorohydrofluorescein diacetate (DCFH-DA) oxidation, a direct indicator of oxidative stress. Twelve 6 month old Sprague Dawley rats were divided into two groups: 28 d of hindlimb unloading (n = 6) and controls (n = 6). Hindlimb unloading resulted in a small decrease in Mn-superoxide dismutase activity (10.1%) in the soleus muscle, while Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase increased 71.2%. In contrast, catalase and glutathione peroxidase, antioxidant enzymes that remove hydroperoxides, were significantly reduced in the soleus with hindlimb unloading by 54.5 and 16.1%, respectively. Hindlimb unloading also significantly reduced ASC. Hindlimb unloading increased soleus lipid hydroperoxide levels by 21.6% and hindlimb muscle DCFH-DA oxidation by 162.1%. These results indicate that hindlimb unloading results in a disruption of antioxidant status, elevation of hydroperoxides, and an increase in oxidative stress.