Responses of high-energy phosphates and metabolic properties to hindlimb suspension were studied in adult rats. The relative content of phosphocreatine (PCr) in the calf muscles was significantly higher in rats suspended for 10 days than in age-matched cage controls. The Pi PCr ratio, where Pi is inorganic phosphate, in suspended muscles was less than controls. The absolute weights of soleus and medial gastrocnemius (MG) were approximately 40% less than controls. Although the % fiber distribution in MG was unchanged, the % slow fibers decreased and the % fibers which were classified as both slow and fast was increased in soleus. The activities (per unit weight or protein) of succinate dehydrogenase and lactate dehydrogenase in soleus were unchanged but those of cytochrome oxidase, β-hydroxyacyl CoA dehydrogenase, and citrate synthase were decreased following unloading. None of these enzyme activities in MG changed. However, the total levels of all enzymes in whole muscles decreased by suspension. It is suggested that shift of slow muscle toward fast type by unloading is associated with a decrease in mitochondrial biogenesis. Further, gravitational unloading affected the levels of muscle proteins differently even in the same mitochondrial enzymes. Unloading-related atrophy is prominent in red muscle or slow-twitch fiber1, 2. Such atrophy is accompanied by a shift of contractile properties toward fast-twitch type2-9. Further, inhibition of mitochondrial metabolism in these muscles is also reported by some studies10-14 suggesting a lowered mitochondrial biogenesis, although results from some studies do not necessarily agree1, 7, 15. However, the precise mechanism responsible for such alterations of muscle properties in response to gravitational unloading is unclear. On the contrary, mitochondrial biogenesis, suggested by mitochondrial enzyme activities and/or mass, is stimulated in muscles with depleted high-energy phosphates by cold exposure16 and/or by feeding creatine analogue β-guanidinopropionic acid17-19. Tension production may be inhibited in unloaded antigravity muscles20, although the muscular activity detected by electromyography is not necessarily decreased21. Thus, the contents of high-energy phosphates or turnover rate of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which then affect the mitochondrial energy metabolism, may be altered. Therefore, the responses of high-energy phosphates and metabolic properties of rat hindlimb muscles to gravitational unloading were investigated.
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