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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Nov;281(5):E1054-62.

Aging skeletal muscle mitochondria in the rat: decreased uncoupling protein-3 content.

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Department of Nutrition, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA.


The goal of the present study was to discern the cellular mechanism(s) that contributes to the age-associated decrease in skeletal muscle aerobic capacity. Skeletal muscle mitochondrial content, a parameter of oxidative capacity, was significantly lower (25 and 20% calculated on the basis of citrate synthase and succinate dehydrogenase activities, respectively) in 24-mo-old Fischer 344 rats compared with 6-mo-old adult rats. Mitochondria isolated from skeletal muscle of both age groups had identical state 3 (ADP-stimulated) and ADP-stimulated maximal respiratory rates and phosphorylation potential (ADP-to-O ratios) with both nonlipid and lipid substrates. In contrast, mitochondria from 24-mo-old rats displayed significantly lower state 4 (ADP-limited) respiratory rates and, consequently, higher respiratory control ratios. Consistent with the tighter coupling, there was a 68% reduction in uncoupling protein-3 (UCP-3) abundance in mitochondria from elderly compared with adult rats. Congruent with the respiratory studies, there was no age-associated decrease in carnitine palmitoyltransferase I and carnitine palmitoyltransferase II activities in isolated skeletal muscle mitochondria. However, there was a small, significant decrease in tissue total carnitine content. It is concluded that the in vivo observed decrease in skeletal muscle aerobic capacity with advanced age is a consequence of the decreased mitochondrial density. On the basis of the dramatic reduction of UCP-3 content associated with decreased state 4 respiration of skeletal muscle mitochondria from elderly rats, we propose that an increased free radical production might contribute to the metabolic compromise in aging.

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