European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 113, Issue 2, pp 509–517 | Cite as

Inflammatory markers in skeletal muscle of older adults

  • Marissa K. Caldow
  • David Cameron-Smith
  • Pazit Levinger
  • Michael J. McKenna
  • Itamar LevingerEmail author
Original Article


Older adults have an increase in circulating markers of inflammation. The current study examined whether there is an increase in the expression of inflammatory markers within the vastus lateralis, a major locomotive muscle, of older adults, and if so, whether the reduction in muscle strength and aerobic capacity in older adults is related to increased muscle inflammation. Skeletal muscle biopsies were taken from older adults (n = 17, 67 ± 1.6 years) and young individuals (n = 16, 24 ± 0.6 years) under resting and fasting conditions. Muscle was analyzed for mRNA levels of intracellular inflammatory molecules (MCP1, TNFα and IL-1β) and total cellular protein abundance of cytokines, chemokines and kinases (IL-6, IL-8, MCP1, TNFα, p65 (NF-κB), JNK1/2 and STAT3). MCP1 expression was significantly higher (p < 0.05; 50 %, mRNA and 40 %, protein) in elderly than younger participants, as was IL-8 (4 %). No detectable difference in kinase protein expression was observed for STAT3, JNK or p65 (NF-κB), TNFα or IL-6. Muscle strength was lower in the elderly compared to the young group (1.55 ± 0.17 vs. 2.56 ± 0.13 Nm/kg, p < 0.001). The elderly group also had a significantly lower VO2peak compared to the young group (24.9 ± 1.9 vs. 39.3 ± 1.9, p < 0.001), but muscle strength and VO2peak were not correlated with the examined inflammatory markers. Older adults have increased MCP1 (mRNA and protein abundance) and IL-8 (protein abundance) and also reduced muscle strength and VO2peak. However, the reduction in muscle strength and VO2peak was not related to the increase in muscle inflammatory markers in this cohort.


Inflammation Older adults Cytokines Skeletal muscle 



Body mass index




c-Jun N-terminal kinases


Mitogen-activated protein kinases


Monocyte chemotactic protein-1


Nuclear factor kappa-B


Signal transducer and activator of transcription


Tumor necrosis factor


Peak aerobic power



This study was partly funded by the L.E.W Carty Charitable Fund. The authors wish to thank Dr Andrew Garnham (Deakin University) and Dr Mitchell Anderson for performing the muscle biopsies, Dr Paul Della Gatta and Dr Jessica Mathers (Deakin University) for helping with participant recruitment, and all participants for volunteering for this study. Dr Itamar Levinger is a Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow (PR 11M 6086).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marissa K. Caldow
    • 1
  • David Cameron-Smith
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pazit Levinger
    • 3
    • 4
  • Michael J. McKenna
    • 4
  • Itamar Levinger
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Exercise and Nutrition SciencesDeakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Liggins InstituteUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.Musculoskeletal Research CentreLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL)Victoria UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  5. 5.School of Sport and Exercise ScienceVictoria UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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