Intensive Care Unit Muscle Wasting : Skeletal Muscle Phenotype and Underlying Molecular Mechanisms

Abstract: Acute quadriplegic myopathy (AQM), or critical illness myopathy, is a common debilitating acquired disorder in critically ill intensive care unit (ICU) patients characterized by generalized muscle wasting and weakness of limb and trunk muscles. A preferential loss of the thick filament protein myosin is considered pathognomonic of this disorder, but the myosin loss is observed relatively late during the disease progression. In attempt to explore the potential role of factors considered triggering AQM in sedated mechanically ventilated (MV) ICU patients, we have studied the early effects, prior to the myosin loss, of neuromuscular blockade (NMB), corticosteroids (CS) and sepsis separate or in combination in a porcine experimental ICU model. Specific interest has been focused on skeletal muscle gene/protein expression and regulation of muscle contraction at the muscle fiber level. This project aims at improving our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying muscle specific differences in response to the ICU intervention and the role played by the different triggering factors.The sparing of masticatory muscle fiber function was coupled to an up-regulation of heat shock protein genes and down-regulation of myostatin are suggested to be key factors in the relative sparing of masticatory muscles. Up-regulation of chemokine activity genes and down-regulation of heat shock protein genes play a significant role in the limb muscle dysfunction associated with sepsis. The effects of corticosteroids in the development of limb muscle weakness reveals up-regulation of kinase activity and transcriptional regulation genes and the down-regulation of heat shock protein, sarcomeric, cytoskeletal and oxidative stress responsive genes. In contrast to limb and craniofacial muscles, the respiratory diaphragm muscle responded differently to the different triggering factors. MV itself appears to play a major role for the diaphragm muscle dysfunction. By targeting these genes, future experiments can give an insight into the development of innovative treatments expected at protecting muscle mass and function in critically ill ICU patients.