Photobiomodulation modulates the expression of inflammatory cytokines during the compensatory hypertrophy process in skeletal muscle

Lasers Med Sci. 2021 Jun;36(4):791-802. doi: 10.1007/s10103-020-03095-y. Epub 2020 Jul 7.


Compensatory hypertrophy (CH) occurs due to excessive mechanical load on a muscle, promoting an increase in the size of muscle fibers. In clinical practice, situations such as partial nerve injuries, denervation, and muscle imbalance caused by trauma to muscles and nerves or diseases that promote the loss of nerve conduction can induce CH in muscle fibers. Photobiomodulation (PBM) has demonstrated beneficial effects on muscle tissue during CH. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effect of PBM on the inflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) as well as type 2 metalloproteinases (MMP-2) during the process of CH due to excessive load on the plantaris muscle in rats. Forty-five Wistar rats weighing 250 g were divided into three groups: control group (n = 10), hypertrophy (H) group (n = 40), and H + PBM group (n = 40). CH was induced through the ablation of synergist muscles of the plantaris muscle. The tendons of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles were isolated and sectioned to enable the partial removal of each of muscle. The preserved plantaris muscle below the removed muscles was submitted to excessive functional load. PBM was performed with low-level laser (AsGaAl, λ = 780 nm; 40 mW; energy density: 10 J/cm2; 10 s on each point, 8 points; 3.2 J). Animals from each group were euthanized after 7 and 14 days. The plantaris muscles were carefully removed and sent for analysis of the gene and protein expression of IL-6 and TNF-α using qPCR and ELISA, respectively. MMP-2 activity was analyzed using zymography. The results were submitted to statistical analysis (ANOVA + Tukey's test, p < 0.05). The protein expression analysis revealed an increase in IL-6 levels in the H + PBM group compared to the H group and a reduction in the H group compared to the control group. A reduction in TNF-α was found in the H and H + PBM groups compared to the control group at 7 days. The gene expression analysis revealed an increase in IL-6 in the H + PBM group compared to the H group at 14 days as well as an increase in TNF-α in the H + PBM group compared to the H group at 7 days. Increases in MMP-2 were found in the H and H + PBM groups compared to the control group at both 7 and 14 days. Based on findings in the present study, it is concluded that PBM was able to modulate pro-inflammatory cytokines that are essential for the compensatory hypertrophy process. However, it has not shown a modulation effect directly in MMP-2 activity during the same period evaluated.

Keywords: Cytokines; Hypertrophy; Low-level laser therapy; Phototherapy; Skeletal muscle.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / radiation effects*
  • Hypertrophy / metabolism
  • Hypertrophy / pathology
  • Hypertrophy / radiotherapy
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Low-Level Light Therapy*
  • Male
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / radiation effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Tendons / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2