Journal of physiology and pharmacology : an official journal of the Polish Physiological Society

Skeletal muscle wasting occurs in adult rats under chronic treatment with paracetamol when glutathione-dependent detoxification is highly activated.

PMID 25371521


The use of glutathione (GSH) and sulfate for the detoxification of paracetamol (acetaminophen, APAP) could occur at the expense of the physiological uses of cysteine (Cys). Indeed GSH and sulfate both originate from Cys. Significant APAP-induced Cys loss could generate alterations in GSH and protein metabolisms leading to muscle wasting. The study aimed to investigate the effects of chronic treatment with APAP on whole-body and tissue homeostasis (mass, GSH, proteins, and nitrogen balance) in relation to sulfur losses through APAP-detoxification pathways. Adult male Wistar rats were fed 0% APAP, 0.5% APAP or 1% APAP diets for 17 days. APAP doses were respectively around and largely above the threshold of sulfation saturation for rats. During the last days, the rats were placed in metabolic cages in order to quantify N balance and urinary APAP metabolites. Gastrocnemius muscle mass, protein and GSH contents, N balance and plasma free cyst(e)ine were 8% (P=0.02), 7% (P=0.03), 26% (P=0.01), 37% (P=0.01), and 33% (P=0.003) lower in the 1% APAP group than in the 0% APAP group, respectively. There was no significant difference in these parameters between the 0.5% APAP group and the 0% APAP group. Muscle wasting occurred when the detoxification of APAP through the GSH-dependent pathway was highly activated. Muscle protein synthesis could have been reduced due to a shortage in Cys and/or an increase in protein degradation in response to intra-muscular oxidative stress. Hence, without dietary sulphur amino acid increase, peripheral bioavailability of Cys and muscle GSH are potential players in the control of muscle mass under chronic treatment with APAP, an analgesic medication of widespread use, especially in the elderly.