Background: Patients with lower extremity peripheral artery disease (PAD) have decreased mobility, which is not fully explained by impaired blood supply to the lower limb. Additionally, reports are conflicted regarding fiber type distribution patterns in PAD, but agree that skeletal muscle mitochondrial respiration is impaired.

Methods: To test the hypothesis that reduced muscle fiber oxidative activity and type I distribution are negatively associated with walking performance in PAD, calf muscle biopsies from non-PAD (n = 7) and PAD participants (n = 26) were analyzed immunohistochemically for fiber type and size, oxidative activity, markers of autophagy, and capillary density. Data were analyzed using analysis of covariance.

Results: There was a wide range in fiber type distribution among subjects with PAD (9–81 % type I fibers) that did not correlate with walking performance. However, mean type I fiber size correlated with 4-min normal- and fastest-paced walk velocity (r = 0.4940, P = 0.010 and r = 0.4944, P = 0.010, respectively). Although intensity of succinate dehydrogenase activity staining was consistent with fiber type, up to 17 % of oxidative fibers were devoid of mitochondria in their cores, and the core showed accumulation of the autophagic marker, LC3, which did not completely co-localize with LAMP2, a lysosome marker.

Conclusions: Calf muscle type I fiber size positively correlates with walking performance in PAD. Accumulation of LC3 and a lack of co-localization of LC3 with LAMP2 in the area depleted of mitochondria in PAD fibers suggests impaired clearance of damaged mitochondria, which may contribute to reduced muscle oxidative capacity. Further study is needed to determine whether defective mitophagy is associated with decline in function over time, and whether interventions aimed at preserving mitochondrial function and improving autophagy can improve walking performance in PAD.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in Journal of Translational Medicine, v. 14, 284, p. 1-15.

© The Author(s) 2016

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

The Erratum to this article has been published in Journal of Translational Medicine 2017 15:45

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Funding Information

The work was supported by NIH Grants R01HL088589, R01HL083064, R01HL089619, R01HL107510, R21-AG047510, and R01HL109244 (M.M.M.) and R01AR60701-S1 (C.A.P.).

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