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Eur Respir J. 2009 May;33(5):1045-52. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00112408. Epub 2009 Jan 7.

Abnormal mitochondrial function in locomotor and respiratory muscles of COPD patients.

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Servicio de Neumología, Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón, Madrid, Spain.


Several cellular and molecular alterations have been described in skeletal and respiratory muscles of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but information on potential abnormalities of mitochondrial function is scarce. The aim of the present study was to investigate mitochondrial function in the vastus lateralis (VL) and external intercostalis (EI) of COPD patients. Biopsies from VL and EI were obtained during surgery for lung cancer in 13 patients with mild to moderate COPD (age 68+/-6 yrs, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV(1)) 66+/-15% predicted) and 19 control subjects (age 67+/-9 yrs, FEV(1) 95+/-18% pred). State 3 and 4 mitochondrial oxygen consumption (V'(O(2),m)), ATP synthesis, citrate synthase, cytochrome oxidase (COX) and complex I-III activities, as well as reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, were determined. In COPD patients, in both muscles, COX activity (VL: COPD 3.0+/-0.8 versus control 2.0+/-0.8; EI: 3.7+/-1.6 versus 2.4+/-0.9 micromol min(-1) mg(-1)) and ROS production (VL: 1,643+/-290 versus 1,285+/-468; EI: 1,033+/-210 versus 848+/-288 arbitrary units) were increased, whereas state 3 V'(O(2),m) was reduced (VL: 2.9+/-0.3 versus 3.6+/-0.4; EI: 3.6+/-0.3 versus 4.1+/-0.4 mmol min(-1) kg(-1)). Skeletal muscle mitochondria of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease show electron transport chain blockade and excessive production of reactive oxygen species. The concurrent involvement of both vastus lateralis and external intercostalis suggests a systemic (rather than a local) mechanism(s) already occurring in relatively early stages (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease stage II) of the disease.

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