Immobilization is characterized by activation of the ubiquitin (Ub)-proteasome-dependent proteolytic system (UPS) and of the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway. Increased oxidative stress and inflammatory response occur in immobilized skeletal muscles. Curcumin exhibits antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, blocked proteasome activation in intact animals, and may favor skeletal muscle regeneration. We therefore measured the effects of curcumin on immobilization-induced muscle atrophy and subsequent recovery. Rats were subjected to hindlimb immobilization for 8 days (I8) and allowed to recover for 10 days (R10). Fifty percent of the rats were injected daily with either curcumin or vehicle. Proteolytic and apoptotic pathways were studied in gastrocnemius muscles. Curcumin treatment prevented the enhanced proteasome chymotrypsin-like activity and the trend toward increased caspase-9-associated apoptosome activity at I8 in immobilized muscles. By contrast, the increase of these two activities was blunted by curcumin at R10. Curcumin did not reduce muscle atrophy at I8 but improved muscle recovery at R10 and the cross-sectional area of muscle fibers of immobilized muscles. Curcumin reduced the increased protein levels of Smac/DIABLO induced by immobilization and enhanced the elevation of X-linked inhibitory apoptotic protein levels at R10. Ub-conjugate levels and caspase-3 activity increased at I8 and were normalized at R10 without being affected by curcumin treatment. Altogether, the data show that curcumin treatment improved recovery during reloading. The effect of curcumin during the atrophic phase on proteasome activities may facilitate the initiation of muscle recovery after reloading. These data also suggest that this compound may favor the initial steps of muscle regeneration.
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