Contractions in whole skeletal muscle during hypoxia are known to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS); however, identification of real-time ROS formation within isolated single skeletal muscle fibers has been challenging. Consequently, there is no convincing evidence showing increased ROS production in intact contracting fibers under low Po₂ conditions. Therefore, we hypothesized that intracellular ROS generation in single contracting skeletal myofibers increases during low Po₂ compared with a value approximating normal resting Po₂. Dihydrofluorescein was loaded into single frog (Xenopus) fibers, and fluorescence was used to monitor ROS using confocal microscopy. Myofibers were exposed to two maximal tetanic contractile periods (1 contraction/3 s for 2 min, separated by a 60-min rest period), each consisting of one of the following treatments: high Po₂ (30 Torr), low Po₂ (3-5 Torr), high Po₂ with ebselen (antioxidant), or low Po₂ with ebselen. Ebselen (10 μM) was administered before the designated contractile period. ROS formation during low Po₂ treatment was greater than during high Po₂ treatment, and ebselen decreased ROS generation in both low- and high-Po₂ conditions (P < 0.05). ROS accumulated at a faster rate in low vs. high Po₂. Force was reduced >30% for each condition except low Po₂ with ebselen, which only decreased ~15%. We concluded that single myofibers under low Po₂ conditions develop accelerated and more oxidative stress than at Po₂ = 30 Torr (normal human resting Po₂). Ebselen decreases ROS formation in both low and high Po₂, but only mitigates skeletal muscle fatigue during reduced Po₂ conditions.
Keywords: confocal; ebselen; hypoxia; myofiber; reactive oxygen species.