During the acute phase of critical illness myopathy (CIM) there is inexcitability of skeletal muscle. In a rat model of CIM, muscle inexcitability is due to inactivation of sodium channels. A major contributor to this sodium channel inactivation is a hyperpolarized shift in the voltage dependence of sodium channel inactivation. The goal of the current study was to find a biochemical correlate of the hyperpolarized shift in sodium channel inactivation.
The rat model of CIM was generated by cutting the sciatic nerve and subsequent injections of dexamethasone for 7 days. Skeletal muscle membranes were prepared from gastrocnemius muscles, and purification and biochemical analyses carried out. Immunoprecipitations were performed with a pan-sodium channel antibody, and the resulting complexes probed in Western blots with various antibodies.
We carried out analyses of sodium channel glycosylation, phosphorylation, and association with other proteins. Although there was some loss of channel glycosylation in the disease, as assessed by size analysis of glycosylated and de-glycosylated protein in control and CIM samples, previous work by other investigators suggest that such loss would most likely shift channel inactivation gating in a depolarizing direction; thus such loss was viewed as compensatory rather than causative of the disease. A phosphorylation site at serine 487 was identified on the NaV 1.4 sodium channel α subunit, but there was no clear evidence of altered phosphorylation in the disease. Co-immunoprecipitation experiments carried out with a pan-sodium channel antibody confirmed that the sodium channel was associated with proteins of the dystrophin associated protein complex (DAPC). This complex differed between control and CIM samples. Syntrophin, dystrophin, and plectin associated strongly with sodium channels in both control and disease conditions, while β-dystroglycan and neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) associated strongly with the sodium channel only in CIM. Recording of action potentials revealed that denervated muscle in mice lacking nNOS was more excitable than control denervated muscle.
Taken together, these data suggest that the conformation/protein association of the sodium channel complex differs in control and critical illness myopathy muscle membranes; and suggest that nitric oxide signaling plays a role in development of muscle inexcitability.