Astaxanthin intake attenuates muscle atrophy caused by immobilization in rats
We have previously reported that spaceflight and tail suspension enhanced degradation of rat myosin heavy chain (MHC) in association with activation of a ubiquitin-dependent proteolytic pathway [Ikemoto et al., FASEB J. 15 (2001), 1279-1281]. To elucidate whether the ubiquitination is accompanied by oxidative stress, we measured markers for oxidative stress, such as thiobarbituric acid-reactive substance (TBARS) and glutathione disulfide (GSSG), in gastrocnemius muscle of tail-suspended rats. Glutathione (GSH) concentration in the muscle significantly decreased from day 5 and reached a minimum value on day 10. Tail suspension reciprocally increased concentrations of TBARS and GSSG in parallel with enhancement of protein ubiquitination, suggesting that oxidative stress may play an important role in protein ubiquitination caused by tail suspension. To prevent ubiquitination associated with oxidative stress, we also administered an antioxidative nutrient, cysteine, to tail-suspended rats. Intragastric supplementation of 140 mg/rat of cysteine for 2 weeks or longer normalized the ratio of GSH to GSSG in the muscle and suppressed protein ubiquitination and MHC fragmentation, compared with supplementation of the equimolar amount of alanine. The cysteine supplementation significantly suppressed the loss of hindlimb muscle mass. Our results suggest that supplementation of antioxidative nutrients, such as cysteine, may be beneficial for preventing ubiquitination of muscle proteins caused by unweighting.