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Lack of physical activity has been related to an increased risk of developing insulin resistance. This study aimed to assess the impact of chronic muscle deconditioning on whole body insulin sensitivity, muscle oxidative capacity, and intramyocellular lipid ( IMCL ) content in subjects with paraplegia. Nine subjects with paraplegia and nine able-bodied, lean controls were recruited. An oral glucose tolerance test was performed to assess whole body insulin sensitivity. IMCL content was determined both in vivo and in vitro using 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy and fluorescence microscopy, respectively. Muscle biopsy samples were stained for succinate dehydrogenase ( SDH ) activity to measure muscle fiber oxidative capacity. Subcellular distributions of IMCL and SDH activity were determined by defining subsarcolemmal and intermyofibrillar areas on histological samples. SDH activity was 57 ± 14% lower in muscle fibers derived from subjects with paraplegia when compared with controls ( P < 0.05 ), but IMCL content and whole body insulin sensitivity did not differ between groups. In muscle fibers taken from controls, both SDH activity and IMCL content were higher in the subsarcolemmal region than in the intermyofibrillar area. This typical subcellular SDH and IMCL distribution pattern was lost in muscle fibers collected from subjects with paraplegia and had changed toward a more uniform distribution. In conclusion, the lower metabolic demand in deconditioned muscle of subjects with paraplegia results in a significant decline in muscle fiber oxidative capacity and is accompanied by changes in the subcellular distribution patterns of SDH activity and IMCL. However, loss of muscle activity due to paraplegia is not associated with substantial lipid accumulation in skeletal muscle tissue.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Journal Article

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