2020 Nov;63(11):2471-2481.

doi: 10.1007/s00125-020-05256-8. Epub 2020 Aug 25.

Preserved Ca 2+ handling and excitation-contraction coupling in muscle fibres from diet-induced obese mice



Aims/hypothesis: Disrupted intracellular Ca2+ handling is known to play a role in diabetic cardiomyopathy but it has also been postulated to contribute to obesity- and type 2 diabetes-associated skeletal muscle dysfunction. Still, there is so far very limited functional insight into whether, and if so to what extent, muscular Ca2+ homeostasis is affected in this situation, so as to potentially determine or contribute to muscle weakness. In differentiated muscle, force production is under the control of the excitation-contraction coupling process: upon plasma membrane electrical activity, the CaV1.1 voltage sensor/Ca2+ channel in the plasma membrane triggers opening of the ryanodine receptor Ca2+ release channel in the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) membrane. Opening of the ryanodine receptor triggers the rise in cytosolic Ca2+, which activates contraction while Ca2+ uptake by the SR ATPase Ca2+-pump promotes relaxation. These are the core mechanisms underlying the tight control of muscle force by neuronal electrical activity. This study aimed at characterising their inherent physiological function in a diet-induced mouse model of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Methods: Intact muscle fibres were isolated from mice fed either with a standard chow diet or with a high-fat, high-sucrose diet generating obesity, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance. Properties of muscle fibres were investigated with a combination of whole-cell voltage-clamp electrophysiology and confocal fluorescence imaging. The integrity and density of the plasma membrane network (transverse tubules) that carries the membrane excitation throughout the muscle fibres was assessed with the dye Di-8-ANEPPS. CaV1.1 Ca2+ channel activity was studied by measuring the changes in current across the plasma membrane elicited by voltage-clamp depolarising pulses of increasing amplitude. SR Ca2+ release through ryanodine receptors was simultaneously detected with the Ca2+-sensitive dye Rhod-2 in the cytosol. CaV1.1 voltage-sensing activity was separately characterised from the properties of intra-plasma-membrane charge movement produced by short voltage-clamp depolarising pulses. Spontaneous Ca2+ release at rest was assessed with the Ca2+-sensitive dye Fluo-4. The rate of SR Ca2+ uptake was assessed from the time course of cytosolic Ca2+ recovery after the end of voltage excitation using the Ca2+-sensitive dye Fluo-4FF. The response to a fatigue-stimulation protocol was determined from the time course of decline of the peak Fluo-4FF Ca2+ transients elicited by 30 trains of 5-ms-long depolarising pulses delivered at 100 Hz.

Results: The transverse tubule network architecture and density were well preserved in the fibres from the obese mice. The CaV1.1 Ca2+ current and voltage-sensing properties were also largely unaffected with mean values for maximum conductance and maximum amount of charge of 234 ± 12 S/F and 30.7 ± 1.6 nC/μF compared with 196 ± 13 S/F and 32.9 ± 2.0 nC/μF in fibres from mice fed with the standard diet, respectively. Voltage-activated SR Ca2+ release through ryanodine receptors also exhibited very similar properties in the two groups with mean values for maximum rate of Ca2+ release of 76.0 ± 6.5 and 78.1 ± 4.4 μmol l-1 ms-1, in fibres from control and obese mice, respectively. The response to a fatigue protocol was also largely unaffected in fibres from the obese mice, and so were the rate of cytosolic Ca2+ removal and the spontaneous Ca2+ release activity at rest.

Conclusions/interpretation: The functional properties of the main mechanisms involved in the control of muscle Ca2+ homeostasis are well preserved in muscle fibres from obese mice, at the level of both the plasma membrane and of the SR. We conclude that intracellular Ca2+ handling and excitation-contraction coupling in skeletal muscle fibres are not primary targets of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Graphical abstract.

Keywords: Ca2+ homeostasis; Cytosolic Ca2+ clearance; Excitation–contraction coupling; Obesity; Ryanodine receptor; Sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ release; Skeletal muscle; Type 2 diabetes.