Patients with sepsis in the ICU (intensive care unit) are characterized by skeletal muscle wasting. This leads to muscle dysfunction that also influences the respiratory capacity, resulting in prolonged mechanical ventilation. Catabolic conditions are associated with a general activation of the ubiquitin–proteasome pathway in skeletal muscle. The aim of the present study was to measure the proteasome proteolytic activity in both respiratory and leg muscles from ICU patients with sepsis and, in addition, to assess the variation of proteasome activity between individuals and between duplicate leg muscle biopsy specimens. When compared with a control group (n=10), patients with sepsis (n=10) had a 30% (P<0.05) and 45% (P<0.05) higher proteasome activity in the respiratory and leg muscles respectively. In a second experiment, ICU patients with sepsis (n=17) had a 55% (P<0.01) higher proteasome activity in the leg muscle compared with a control group (n=10). The inter-individual scatter of proteasome activity was larger between the patients with sepsis than the controls. We also observed a substantial intra-individual difference in activity between duplicate biopsies in several of the subjects. In conclusion, the proteolytic activity of the proteasome was higher in skeletal muscle from patients with sepsis and multiple organ failure compared with healthy controls. It was shown for the first time that respiratory and leg muscles were affected similarly. Furthermore, the variation in proteasome activity between individuals was more pronounced in the ICU patients for both muscle types, whereas the intra-individual variation between biopsies was similar for ICU patients and controls.

You do not currently have access to this content.