Skeletal muscle is composed of fiber types that differ in mitochondrial content, antioxidant capacity, and susceptibility to apoptosis. Ceramides have been linked to oxidative stress-mediated apoptotic intracellular signalling and the enzyme neutral sphingomyelinase (nSMase) is, in part, responsible for generating these ceramides through the hydrolysis of sphingomyelin. Despite the role of ceramides in mediating apoptosis, there is a gap in the literature regarding nSMase in skeletal muscle mitochondria. This study aimed to characterize total nSMase activity and individual isoform expression in isolated subsarcolemmal (SS) mitochondria from soleus, diaphragm, plantaris, and extensor digitorum longus (EDL). Total nSMase activity did not differ between muscle types. nSMase2 content was detectable in all muscles and higher in EDL, soleus, and plantaris compared to diaphragm whereas nSMase3 was undetectable in all muscles. Finally, total nSMase activity positively correlated to nSMase2 protein content in soleus but not the other muscles. These findings suggest that nSMase associated with SS mitochondria may play a role in intracellular signalling processes involving ceramides in skeletal muscle and nSMase2 may be the key isoform, specifically in slow twitch muscle like soleus. Further studies are needed to fully elucidate the specific contribution of nSMase, along with the role of the various isoforms and mitochondrial subpopulation in generating mitochondrial ceramides in skeletal muscle, and its potential effects on mediating apoptosis.
Keywords: Diaphragm; Extensor digitorum longus; Plantaris; Soleus; Subsarcolemmal.
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