We studied the alterations in skeletal muscle protein breakdown in long lasting sepsis using a rat model that reproduces a sustained and reversible catabolic state, as observed in humans. Rats were injected intravenously with live Escherichia coli; control rats were pair-fed to the intake of infected rats. Rats were studied in an acute septic phase (day 2 postinfection), in a chronic septic phase (day 6), and in a late septic phase (day 10). The importance of the lysosomal, Ca2+ -dependent, and ubiquitin-proteasome proteolytic processes was investigated using proteolytic inhibitors in incubated epitrochlearis muscles and by measuring mRNA levels for critical components of these pathways. Protein breakdown was elevated during the acute and chronic septic phases (when significant muscle wasting occurred) and returned to control values in the late septic phase (when wasting was stopped). A nonlysosomal and Ca2+ -independent process accounted for the enhanced proteolysis, and only mRNA levels for ubiquitin and subunits of the 20 S proteasome, the proteolytic core of the 26 S proteasome that degrades ubiquitin conjugates, paralleled the increased and decreased rates of proteolysis throughout. However, increased mRNA levels for the 14-kD ubiquitin conjugating enzyme E2, involved in substrate ubiquitylation, and for cathepsin B and m-calpain were observed in chronic sepsis. These data clearly support a major role for the ubiquitin-proteasome dependent proteolytic process during sepsis but also suggest that the activation of lysosomal and Ca2+ -dependent proteolysis may be important in the chronic phase.
L Voisin, D Breuillé, L Combaret, C Pouyet, D Taillandier, E Aurousseau, C Obled, D Attaix