Cancer cachexia is characterized by a continuous loss of locomotor skeletal muscle mass, which causes profound muscle weakness. If this atrophy and weakness also occurs in diaphragm muscle, it could lead to respiratory failure, which is a major cause of death in patients with cancer. Thus, the purpose of the current study was to determine whether colon-26 (C-26) cancer cachexia causes diaphragm muscle fiber atrophy and weakness and compromises ventilation. All diaphragm muscle fiber types were significantly atrophied in C-26 mice compared to controls, and the atrophy-related genes, atrogin-1 and MuRF1, significantly increased. Maximum isometric specific force of diaphragm strips, absolute maximal calcium activated force, and maximal specific calcium-activated force of permeabilized diaphragm fibers were all significantly decreased in C-26 mice compared to controls. Further, isotonic contractile properties of the diaphragm were affected to an even greater extent than isometric function. Ventilation measurements demonstrated that C-26 mice have a significantly lower tidal volume compared to controls under basal conditions and, unlike control mice, an inability to increase breathing frequency, tidal volume, and, thus, minute ventilation in response to a respiratory challenge. These data demonstrate that C-26 cancer cachexia causes profound respiratory muscle atrophy and weakness and ventilatory dysfunction.
Keywords: C-26; limb muscle; muscle function; respiratory muscles; single fiber.