Oxidative stress, redox signaling pathways, and autophagy in cachectic muscles of male patients with advanced COPD and lung cancer

Free Radic Biol Med. 2015 Feb;79:91-108. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2014.11.006. Epub 2014 Nov 18.


Muscle dysfunction and wasting are predictors of mortality in advanced COPD and malignancies. Redox imbalance and enhanced protein catabolism are underlying mechanisms in COPD. We hypothesized that the expression profile of several biological markers share similarities in patients with cachexia associated with either COPD or lung cancer (LC). In vastus lateralis of cachectic patients with either LC (n=10) or advanced COPD (n=16) and healthy controls (n=10), markers of redox balance, inflammation, proteolysis, autophagy, signaling pathways, mitochondrial function, muscle structure, and sarcomere damage were measured using laboratory and light and electron microscopy techniques. Systemic redox balance and inflammation were also determined. All subjects were clinically evaluated. Compared to controls, in both cachectic groups of patients, a similar expression profile of different biological markers was observed in their muscles: increased levels of muscle protein oxidation and ubiquitination (p<0.05, both), which positively correlated (r=0.888), redox-sensitive signaling pathways (NF-κB and FoxO) were activated (p<0.05, all), fast-twitch fiber sizes were atrophied, muscle structural abnormalities and sarcomere disruptions were significantly greater (p<0.05, both). Structural and functional protein levels were lower in muscles of both cachectic patient groups than in controls (p<0.05, all). However, levels of autophagy markers including ultrastructural autophagosome counts were increased only in muscles of cachectic COPD patients (p<0.05). Systemic oxidative stress and inflammation levels were also increased in both patient groups compared to controls (p<0.005, both). Oxidative stress and redox-sensitive signaling pathways are likely to contribute to the etiology of muscle wasting and sarcomere disruption in patients with respiratory cachexia: LC and COPD.

Keywords: Autophagy; COPD cachexia; Inflammation; Lung cancer cachexia; Muscle structure and ultrastructural abnormalities; Proteolysis and redox signaling pathways; Redox imbalance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Autophagy*
  • Cachexia / metabolism*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / metabolism*