BACKGROUND: Unloading of skeletal muscle causes atrophy and loss of contractile function. In part, this response is believed to be mediated by the transcription factor nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kappaB). Both curcumin, a component of the spice turmeric, and N-acetylcysteine (NAC), an antioxidant, inhibit activation of NF-kappaB by inflammatory stimuli, albeit by different mechanisms. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that dietary curcumin or NAC supplementation would inhibit unloading-induced NF-kappaB activity in skeletal muscle and thereby protect muscles against loss of mass and function caused by prolonged unloading.

METHODS: We used hindlimb suspension to unload the hindlimb muscles of adult mice. Animals had free access to drinking water or drinking water supplemented with 1% NAC and to standard laboratory diet or diet supplemented with 1% curcumin. For 11 days, half the animals in each dietary group were suspended by the tail (unloaded) and half were allowed to ambulate freely.

RESULTS: Unloading caused a 51-53% loss of soleus muscle weight and cross-sectional area relative to freely-ambulating controls. Unloading also decreased total force and force per cross-sectional area developed by soleus. Curcumin supplementation decreased NF-kappaB activity measured in peripheral tissues of ambulatory mice by gel shift analysis. In unloaded animals, curcumin supplementation did not inhibit NF-kappaB activity or blunt the loss of muscle mass in soleus. In contrast, NAC prevented the increase in NF-kappaB activity induced by unloading but did not prevent losses of muscle mass or function.

CONCLUSION: In conclusion, neither dietary curcumin nor dietary NAC prevents unloading-induced skeletal muscle dysfunction and atrophy, although dietary NAC does prevent unloading induced NF-kappaB activation.

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Published in Nutrition & Metabolism, v. 2, 20.

© 2005 Farid et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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