Mitochondrial abnormalities, energy deficit and oxidative stress are features of calpain 3 deficiency in skeletal muscle

Irina Kramerova, Elena Kudryashova, Benjamin Wu, Sean Germain, Krista Vandenborne, Nadine Romain, Ronald G. Haller, M. Anthony Verity, Melissa J. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Mutations in the non-lysosomal cysteine protease calpain-3 cause autosomal recessive limb girdle muscular dystrophy. Pathological mechanisms occurring in this disease have not yet been elucidated. Here, we report both morphological and biochemical evidence of mitochondrial abnormalities in calpain-3 knockout (C3KO) muscles, including irregular ultrastructure and distribution of mitochondria. The morphological abnormalities in C3KO muscles are associated with reduced in vivo mitochondrial ATP production as measured by 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Mitochondrial abnormalities in C3KO muscles also correlate with the presence of oxidative stress; increased protein modification by oxygen free radicals and an elevated concentration of the anti-oxidative enzyme Mn-superoxide dismutase were observed in C3KO muscles. Previously we identified a number of mitochondrial proteins involved in β-oxidation of fatty acids as potential substrates for calpain-3. In order to determine if the mitochondrial abnormalities resulted from the loss of direct regulation of mitochondrial proteins by calpain-3, we validated the potential substrates that were identified in previous proteomic studies. This analysis showed that the β-oxidation enzyme, VLCAD, is cleaved by calpain-3 in vitro, but we were not able to confirm that VLCAD is an in vivo substrate for calpain-3. However, the activity of VLCAD was decreased in C3KO mitochondrial fractions compared with wild type, a finding that likely reflects a general mitochondrial dysfunction. Taken together, these data suggest that mitochondrial abnormalities leading to oxidative stress and energy deficit are important pathological features of calpainopathy and possibly represent secondary effects of the absence of calpain-3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3194-3205
Number of pages12
JournalHuman molecular genetics
Issue number17
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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