The influence of Ca2+ on myofibrillar proteolysis was evaluated in the isolated extensor digitorum longus muscle incubated in vitro with agents previously shown to increase the intracellular concentration of Ca2+. Myofibrillar proteolysis was evaluated by measuring the release of N tau-methylhistidine, and total proteolysis was evaluated by measuring tyrosine release by incubated muscles after the inhibition of protein synthesis with cycloheximide. Incubated muscles released measurable quantities of N tau-methylhistidine, and muscle contents of the amino acids remained stable over 2 h of incubation. The release of N tau-methylhistidine by incubated muscles was similar to its release by perfused rat muscle in response to brief starvation, indicating the integrity of the incubated muscles. Ca2+ ionophore A23187, dibucaine, procaine, caffeine and elevated K+ concentration increased lactate release by incubated muscles and decreased tissue contents of ATP and phosphocreatine to varying degrees, indicating the metabolic effectiveness of the agents tested. Only A23187 and dibucaine increased total cell Ca2+, and they increased tyrosine release. Caffeine and elevated [K+] increased neither cell Ca2+ nor tyrosine release; however, only A23187 and dibucaine increased tyrosine release significantly. On the other hand, these agents were without effect on myofibrillar proteolysis as assessed by N tau-methylhistidine release by incubated muscles and changes in tissue contents of the amino acid. In fact, some of the agents tested tended to decrease myofibrillar proteolysis slightly. These results indicate that acute elevation of intracellular Ca2+ is associated with increased breakdown of non-myofibrillar but not myofibrillar proteins. Because of this, the role of elevated Ca2+ in muscle atrophy in certain pathological states is questioned. The data also indicate that the breakdown of myofibrillar and non-myofibrillar proteins in muscle is regulated independently and by different pathways, a conclusion reached in previous studies with perfused rat muscle.

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