Activation of aconitase in mouse fast-twitch skeletal muscle during contraction-mediated oxidative stress

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2007 Sep;293(3):C1154-9. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00110.2007. Epub 2007 Jul 5.


Aconitase is a mitochondrial enzyme that converts citrate to isocitrate in the tricarboxylic acid cycle and is inactivated by reactive oxygen species (ROS). We investigated the effect of exercise/contraction, which is associated with elevated ROS production, on aconitase activity in skeletal muscle. Humans cycled at 75% of maximal workload, followed by six 60-s bouts at 125% of maximum workload. Biopsies were taken from the thigh muscle at rest and after the submaximal and supramaximal workloads. Isolated mouse extensor digitorum longus (EDL; fast twitch) and soleus (slow twitch) muscles were stimulated to perform repeated contractions for 10 min. Muscles were analyzed for enzyme activities and glutathione status. Exercise did not affect aconitase activity in human muscle despite increased oxidative stress, as judged by elevated levels of oxidized glutathione. Similarly, repeated contractions did not alter aconitase activity in soleus muscle. In contrast, repeated contractions significantly increased aconitase activity in EDL muscle by approximately 50%, despite increased ROS production. This increase was not associated with a change in the amount of immunoreactive aconitase (Western blot) but was markedly inhibited by cyclosporin A, an inhibitor of the protein phosphatase calcineurin. Immunoprecipitation experiments demonstrated that aconitase was phosphorylated on serine residues. Aconitase in cell-free extracts was inactivated by the addition of the ROS hydrogen peroxide. In conclusion, the results suggest that aconitase activity can be regulated by at least two mechanisms: oxidation/reduction and phosphorylation/dephosphorylation. During contraction, a ROS-mediated inactivation of aconitase can be overcome, possibly by dephosphorylation of the enzyme. The dual-control system may be important in maintaining aerobic ATP production during muscle contraction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aconitate Hydratase / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Mitochondria / enzymology
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / enzymology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Isoenzymes
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Aconitate Hydratase
  • Glutathione