Postmenopausal women are prone to develop obesity and insulin resistance, which might be related to skeletal muscle mitochondrial dysfunction. In a rat model of ovariectomy (OVX), skeletal muscle mitochondrial function was examined at short- and long-term periods after castration. Mitochondrial parameters in the soleus and white gastrocnemius muscle fibers were analyzed. Three weeks after surgery, there were no differences in coupled mitochondrial respiration (ATP synthesis) with pyruvate, malate, and succinate; proton leak respiration; or mitochondrial reactive oxygen species production. However, after 3 wk of OVX, the soleus and white gastrocnemius muscles of the OVX animals showed a lower use of palmitoyl-carnitine and glycerol-phosphate substrates, respectively, and decreased peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator-1α expression. Estrogen replacement reverted all of these phenotypes. Eight weeks after OVX, ATP synthesis was lower in the soleus and white gastrocnemius muscles of the OVX animals than in the sham-operated and estrogen-treated animals; however, when normalized by citrate synthase activity, these differences disappeared, indicating a lower muscle mitochondria content. No differences were observed in the proton leak parameter. Mitochondrial alterations did not impair the treadmill exercise capacity of the OVX animals. However, blood lactate levels in the OVX animals were higher after the physical test, indicating a compensatory extramitochondrial ATP synthesis system, but this phenotype was reverted by estrogen replacement. These results suggest early mitochondrial dysfunction related to lipid substrate use, which could be associated with the development of the overweight phenotype of ovariectomized animals.
Keywords: mitochondria; ovariectomy; rats; skeletal muscle.