Skeletal muscle often shows a delayed force recovery after fatiguing stimulation, especially at low stimulation frequencies. In this study we focus on the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in this fatigue-induced prolonged low-frequency force depression. Intact, single muscle fibres were dissected from flexor digitorum brevis (FDB) muscles of rats and wild-type and superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) overexpressing mice. Force and myoplasmic free [Ca2+] ([Ca2+]i) were measured. Fibres were stimulated at different frequencies before and 30 min after fatigue induced by repeated tetani. The results show a marked force decrease at low stimulation frequencies 30 min after fatiguing stimulation in all fibres. This decrease was associated with reduced tetanic [Ca2+]i in wild-type mouse fibres, whereas rat fibres and mouse SOD2 overexpressing fibres instead displayed a decreased myofibrillar Ca2+ sensitivity. The SOD activity was ∼50% lower in wild-type mouse than in rat FDB muscles. Myoplasmic ROS increased during repeated tetanic stimulation in rat fibres but not in wild-type mouse fibres. The decreased Ca2+ sensitivity in rat fibres could be partially reversed by application of the reducing agent dithiothreitol, whereas the decrease in tetanic [Ca2+]i in wild-type mouse fibres was not affected by dithiothreitol or the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine. In conclusion, we describe two different causes of fatigue-induced prolonged low-frequency force depression, which correlate to differences in SOD activity and ROS metabolism. These findings may have clinical implications since ROS-mediated impairments in myofibrillar function can be counteracted by reductants and antioxidants, whereas changes in SR Ca2+ handling appear more resistant to interventions.
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