Age-related sarcopenia reduces the size, strength, and function of muscle, and the diameter of muscle fibers. It also disrupts the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex, dislocating nitric oxide synthase 1 (NOS-1) and reducing sarcolemmal integrity. This study of quadriceps muscle in 18-mo-old mice showed that NO-donor treatment with isosorbide dinitrate (I) for 6 wk, in combination with voluntary exercise for 3 wk, increased muscle mass by 25% and stimulated cell proliferation. The resulting fiber hypertrophy was accompanied by a lower ratio of protein:DNA, consistent with myogenic-cell hyperplasia. Treatment enhanced the ratio of NOS-1:β-dystroglycan in correlation with fiber diameter, improved sarcolemmal integrity, and increased vascular density after an increase in vascular endothelial growth factor protein at 3 wk. Results demonstrate that age-related muscle refractoriness to exercise can be overcome with NO-donor treatment. Since activation of muscle stem cells and vascular perfusion are limiting factors in the maintenance, regeneration, and growth of aged muscle, results suggest the feasibility of using NO-donor drugs to combat atrophy and muscle ischemia. Improved function and quality of life from the NO-amplified effects of exercise may be useful in aging and other conditions such as disuse, insulin resistance, or microgravity.
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