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Sepsis: Stimulation of Energy-Dependent Protein Breakdown Resulting in Protein Loss in Skeletal Muscle

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Abstract. Muscle catabolism is a characteristic metabolic response to sepsis, severe infection, and injury. In patients with severe and protracted sepsis, the catabolic response results in muscle wasting and fatigue, which may adversely affect the outcome in these patients. An understanding of the regulation of muscle protein breakdown during sepsis and the mechanisms involved is important from a clinical standpoint and is essential for the development of new therapeutic modalities to prevent protein loss from muscle tissue. Studies in septic patients and experimental animals have provided evidence that the myofibrillar proteins actin and myosin are particularly sensitive to the effects of sepsis. Among the factors that regulate muscle protein breakdown during sepsis, the proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-1, together with glucocorticoids, are the principal mediators. Intracellular protein breakdown is regulated by multiple proteolytic pathways. Among these, the energy-ubiquitin-dependent pathway accounts for a major portion of muscle protein breakdown during sepsis. The development of specific proteasome inhibitors may make it possible in the future to target the molecular mechanisms of sepsis-induced increase in muscle proteolysis. Such treatment may prove an important avenue to reduce the metabolic cost in patients with severe infection or sepsis.

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Hasselgren, PO., Fischer, J. Sepsis: Stimulation of Energy-Dependent Protein Breakdown Resulting in Protein Loss in Skeletal Muscle. World J. Surg. 22, 203–208 (1998).

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