Sepsis is associated with increased mRNAs of the ubiquitin-proteasome proteolytic pathway in human skeletal muscle

J Clin Invest. 1997 Jan 15;99(2):163-8. doi: 10.1172/JCI119143.


Previous studies provided evidence that sepsis-induced muscle proteolysis in experimental animals is caused by increased ubiquitin-proteasome-dependent protein breakdown. It is not known if a similar mechanism accounts for muscle proteolysis in patients with sepsis. We determined mRNA levels for ubiquitin and the 20 S proteasome subunit HC3 by Northern blot analysis in muscle tissue from septic (n = 7) and non-septic (n = 11) patients. Plasma and muscle amino acid concentrations and concentrations in urine of 3-methylhistidine (3-MH), creatinine, and cortisol were measured at the time of surgery to assess the catabolic state of the patients. A three- to fourfold increase in mRNA levels for ubiquitin and HC3 was noted in muscle tissue from the septic patients concomitant with increased muscle levels of phenylalanine and 3-MH and reduced levels of glutamine. Total plasma amino acids were decreased by approximately 30% in the septic patients. The 3-MH/creatinine ratio in urine was almost doubled in septic patients. The cortisol levels in urine were higher in septic than in control patients but this difference did not reach statistical significance. The results suggest that sepsis is associated with increased mRNAs of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway in human skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amino Acids / blood
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylhistidines / analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism*
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / chemistry
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Phenylalanine / analysis
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Sepsis / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitins / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation


  • Amino Acids
  • Methylhistidines
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Muscle Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Ubiquitins
  • Phenylalanine
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • 3-methylhistidine