It is presently unknown whether oxidative stress increases in disused skeletal muscle in humans. Markers of oxidative stress were investigated in biopsies from the vastus lateralis muscle, collected from healthy subjects before [time 0 (T0)], after 1 wk (T8), and after 5 wk (T35) of bed rest. An 18% decrease in fiber cross-sectional area was detected in T35 biopsies (P<0.05). Carbonylation of muscle proteins significantly increased about twofold at T35 (P<0.02) and correlated positively with the decrease in fiber cross-sectional area (P=0.04). Conversely, T8 biopsies showed a significant increase in protein levels of heme oxygenase-1 and glucose-regulated protein-75 (Grp75)/mitochondrial heat shock protein-70, two stress proteins involved in the antioxidant defense (P<0.05). Heme oxygenase-1 increase, which involved a larger proportion of slow fibers compared with T0, appeared blunted in T35 biopsies. Grp75 protein level increased threefold in T8 biopsies and localized especially in slow fibers (P<0.025), to decrease significantly in T35 biopsies (P<0.05). Percent change in Grp75 levels positively correlated with fiber cross-sectional area (P=0.01). Parallel investigations on rat soleus muscles, performed after 1-15 days of hindlimb suspension, showed that Grp75 protein levels significantly increased after 24 h of unloading (P = 0.02), i.e., before statistically significant evidence of muscle atrophy, to decrease thereafter in relation to the degree of muscle atrophy (P=0.03). Therefore, in humans as in rodents, disuse muscle atrophy is characterized by increased protein carbonylation and by the blunting of the antioxidant stress response evoked by disuse
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