Altered skeletal muscle mitochondrial phenotype in COPD: Disease vs. disuse

Jayson R. Gifford, Joel D. Trinity, Oh Sung Kwon, Gwenael Layec, Ryan S. Garten, Song Young Park, Ashley D. Nelson, Russell S. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exhibit an altered skeletal muscle mitochondrial phenotype, which often includes reduced mitochondrial density, altered respiratory function, and elevated oxidative stress. As this phenotype may be explained by the sedentary lifestyle that commonly accompanies this disease, the aim of this study was to determine whether such alterations are still evident when patients with COPD are compared to control subjects matched for objectively measured physical activity (PA; accelerometry). Indexes of mitochondrial density [citrate synthase (CS) activity], respiratory function (respirometry in permeabilized fibers), and muscle oxidative stress [4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE) content] were assessed in muscle fibers biopsied from the vastus lateralis of nine patients with COPD and nine PA-matched control subjects (CON). Despite performing similar levels of PA (CON: 18 ± 3, COPD: 20 ± 7 daily minutes moderate-to-vigorous PA; CON: 4,596 ± 683, COPD: 4,219 ± 763 steps per day, P > 0.70), patients with COPD still exhibited several alterations in their mitochondrial phenotype, including attenuated skeletal muscle mitochondrial density (CS activity; CON 70.6 ± 3.8, COPD 52.7 ± 6.5 U/mg, P < 0.05), altered mitochondrial respiration [e.g., ratio of complex I-driven state 3 to complex II-driven state 3 (CI/CII); CON: 1.20 ± 0.11, COPD: 0.90 ± 0.05, P < 0.05), and oxidative stress (4-HNE; CON: 1.35 ± 0.19, COPD: 2.26 ± 0.25 relative to β-actin, P < 0.05). Furthermore, CS activity (r = 0.55), CI/CII (r = 0.60), and 4-HNE (r = 0.49) were all correlated with pulmonary function, assessed as forced expiratory volume in 1 s (P < 0.05), but not PA (P > 0.05). In conclusion, the altered mitochondrial phenotype in COPD is present even in the absence of differing levels of PA and appears to be related to the disease itself. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with debilitating alterations in the function of skeletal muscle mitochondria. By comparing the mitochondrial phenotype of patients with COPD to that of healthy control subjects who perform the same amount of physical activity each day, this study provides evidence that many aspects of the dysfunctional mitochondrial phenotype observed in COPD are not merely due to reduced physical activity but are likely related to the disease itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1045-1053
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • COPD
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Muscle dysfunction
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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