Aging and acute exercise enhance free radical generation in rat skeletal muscle

J. Bejma, L. L. Ji

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382 Scopus citations


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are implicated in the mechanism of biological aging and exercise-induced oxidative damage. The present study examined the effect of an acute bout of exercise on intracellular ROS production, lipid and protein peroxidation, and GSH status in the skeletal muscle of young adult (8 mo, n = 24) and old (24 mo, n = 24) female Fischer 344 rats. Young rats ran on a treadmill at 25 m/min and 5% grade until exhaustion (55.4 ± 2.7 min), whereas old rats ran at 15 m/min and 5% grade until exhaustion (58.0 ± 2.7 min). Rate of dichlorofluorescin (DCFH) oxidation, an indication of ROS and other intracellular oxidants production in the homogenate of deep vastus lateralis, was 77% (P < 0.01) higher in rested old vs. young rats. Exercise increased DCFH oxidation by 38% (P < 0.09) and 50% (P < 0.01) in the young and old rats, respectively. DCFH oxidation in isolated deep vastus lateralis mitochondria with site 1 substrates was elevated by 57% (P < 0.01) in old vs. young rats but was unaltered with exercise. Significantly higher DCFH oxidation rate was also found in aged-muscle mitochondria (P < 0.01), but not in homogenates, when ADP, NADPH, and Fe3+ were included in the assay medium without substrates. Lipid peroxidation in muscle measured by malondialdehyde content showed no age effect, but was increased by 20% (P < 0.05) with exercise in both young and old rats. Muscle protein carbonyl formation was unaffected by either age or exercise. Mitochondrial GSH/GSSG ratio was significantly higher in aged vs. young rats (P < 0.05), whereas exercise increased GSSG content and decreased GSH/GSSG in both age groups (P < 0.05). These data provided direct evidence that oxidant production in skeletal muscle is increased in old age and during prolonged exercise, with both mitochondrial respiratory chain and NADPH oxidase as potential sources. The alterations of muscle lipid peroxidation and mitochondrial GSH status were consistent with these conclusions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-470
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1999


  • Aging
  • Exercise
  • Free radical
  • Muscle
  • Oxidative damage


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