Astaxanthin (AX) is a carotenoid that exerts potent antioxidant activity and acts in the lipid bilayer. This study aimed to investigate the effects of AX on muscle atrophy-mediated disturbance of mitochondria that have a lipid bilayer. Tail suspension was used to establish muscle- atrophied mouse models. AX diet fed to tail-suspension mice prevented loss of muscle weight and decreased myofiber size in the soleus muscle. Additionally, AX improved down-regulation of mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes II and III in the soleus muscle after tail suspension. To confirm the AX phenotype in the soleus muscle, we examined its effects on mitochondria using Sol8 myotubes derived from the soleus muscle. We found that AX was preferentially detected in the mitochondrial fraction; it significantly suppressed mitochondrial complex III-driven production of reactive oxygen species in Sol8 myotubes. Moreover, AX inhibited the activation of caspase 3 via inhibiting the release of cytochrome c into the cytosol in antimycin A-treated Sol8 myotubes. These results suggested that AX inhibited mitochondrial oxidative stress through a mitochondria-mediated apoptosis pathway and thus prevented muscle atrophy.
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