Age and sex differences in human skeletal muscle: Role of reactive oxygen species

O. Pansarasa, L. Castagna, B. Colombi, J. Vecchiet, G. Felzani, F. Marzatico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies, conducted on experimental animals, have indicated that reactive oxygen species (ROS) are involved in the aging process. The objective of this work was to study the relationship between oxidative damage and human skeletal muscle aging, measuring the activity of the main antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase (total and MnSOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and catalase in the skeletal muscle of men and women in the age groups: young (17-40 years), adult (41-65 years) and aged (66-91 years). We also measured glutathione and glutathione disulfide (GSH and GSSG) levels and the redox index; lipid peroxidation and protein carbonyl content. Total SOD activity was lower in the 66-91 year-old vs. the 17-40 year-old men; MnSOD activity was significantly greater in 66-91 year-old vs. 17-40 year-old women. GPx activity remained unchanged. The activity of catalase was lower in adults than in young men but higher in the aged. We observed no changes in GSH levels and significantly higher GSSG levels only in aged men vs. adult men, and a significant decrease in aged women vs. aged men. The protein carbonyl content increased significantly in the 41-65 and 66-91 year-old vs. the 17-40 year-old men. Finally, young women have lower lipid peroxidation levels than young men. Significantly higher lipid peroxidation levels were observed in aged men vs. both young and adult men, and the same trend was noticed for women. We conclude that oxidative damage may play a crucial role in the decline of functional activity in human skeletal muscle with normal aging in both sexes; and that men appear to be more subject to oxidative stress than women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-293
Number of pages7
JournalFree Radical Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Aging
  • Antioxidant enzymes
  • Lipid peroxidation
  • Sex
  • Skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry

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