Our intent was to investigate the mechanisms driving the adaptive potential of subsarcolemmal (SS) and intermyofibrillar (IMF) mitochondria in young (6 mo) and senescent (36 mo) animals in response to a potent stimulus for organelle biogenesis. We employed chronic electrical stimulation (10 Hz, 3 h/day, 7 days) to induce contractile activity of skeletal muscle in 6 and 36 mo F344XBN rats. Subsequent to chronic activity, acute stimulation (1 Hz, 5 min) in situ revealed greater fatigue resistance in both age groups. However, the improvement in endurance was significantly greater in the young, compared to the old animals. Chronic muscle use also augmented SS and IMF mitochondrial volume to a greater extent in young muscle. The molecular basis for the diminished organelle expansion in aged muscle was due, in part, to the collective attenuation of the chronic stimulation-evoked increase in regulatory proteins involved in mediating mitochondrial protein import and biogenesis. Furthermore, adaptations in mitochondrial function were also blunted in old animals. However, chronic contractile activity evoked greater reductions in mitochondrially-mediated proapoptotic signaling in aged muscle. Thus, mitochondrial plasticity is retained in aged animals, however the magnitude of the changes are less compared to young animals due to attenuated molecular processes regulating organelle biogenesis.
Keywords: subsarcolemmal mitochondria, intermyofibrillar mitochondria, chronic contractile activity, performance, protein import, apoptosis