Although metabolic complications are common in thalassemia patients, there is still an unmet need to better understand underlying mechanisms. We used unbiased global proteomics to reveal molecular differences between the th3/+ mouse model of thalassemia and wild-type control animals focusing on skeletal muscles at 8 weeks of age. Our data point toward a significantly impaired mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Furthermore, we observed a shift from oxidative fibre types toward more glycolytic fibre types in these animals, which was further supported by larger fibre-type cross-sectional areas in the more oxidative type fibres (type I/type IIa/type IIax hybrid). We also observed an increase in capillary density in th3/+ mice, indicative of a compensatory response. Western blotting for mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation complex proteins and PCR analysis of mitochondrial genes indicated reduced mitochondrial content in the skeletal muscle but not the hearts of th3/+ mice. The phenotypic manifestation of these alterations was a small but significant reduction in glucose handling capacity. Overall, this study identified many important alterations in the proteome of th3/+ mice, amongst which mitochondrial defects leading to skeletal muscle remodelling and metabolic dysfunction were paramount.
Keywords: iron; mitochondria; proteomics; skeletal muscle; thalassemia.