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Effects of Salmeterol on Skeletal Muscle Cells: Metabolic and Proapoptotic Features


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: December 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 12 - p 2259–2273
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182223094
Basic Sciences

Purpose Salmeterol is a β2-adrenergic receptor agonist widely used for the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It has been shown that salmeterol is also used at supratherapeutic doses as performance-enhancing substance in sport practice. Although the abuse of β-agonists might determine some adverse effects, the molecular effects of salmeterol on skeletal muscle cells remain unclear.

Methods We evaluated the effects of salmeterol (0.1–10 μM) on both proliferative and differentiated rat L6C5 and mouse C2C12 skeletal muscle cell lines. The metabolic effects were evaluated by glyceraldehyde phosphate dehydrogenase, lactate dehydrogenase, citrate synthase, 3-OH acyl-CoA dehydrogenase, and alanine transglutaminase activities. Cytotoxic and apoptotic effects were analyzed by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-1)-5-(3-carboxymeth-oxyphenyl)-2H-tetrazolium, trypan blue exclusion assay, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling assay, Western blot analysis, and immunofluorescence staining.

Results We showed that salmeterol reduced the growth rate of proliferating cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner (6–48 h). An increase in oxidative metabolism was found after 6 h in C2C12 and L6C5 myoblasts and in C2C12 myotubes with respect to control cells, while in L6C5 myotubes, anaerobic metabolism prevailed. Exposure of myoblasts and myotubes for 48 and 72 h at high salmeterol concentrations induced apoptosis by the activation of the intrinsic apoptotic pathway, as confirmed by the modulation of the apoptotic proteins Bcl-xL, caspase-9, and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase and by the cytoplasmic release of Smac/DIABLO.

Conclusions Altogether, our results demonstrate that short-term supratherapeutic salmeterol exposure increased oxidative metabolic pathways on skeletal muscle cells, whereas prolonged treatment inhibits cell growth and exerts either a cytostatic or a proapoptotic effect in a time- and dose-dependent way.

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1Department of Health Sciences, University of Rome ``Foro Italico,’’ Rome, ITALY; 2Institute of Translational Pharmacology, IFT National Research Council of Italy, Rome, ITALY; and 3Department of Internal Medicine, Second University of Naples, ITALY

Address for correspondence: Guglielmo Duranti, Ph.D., Department of Health Sciences, University of Rome ``Foro Italico,’’ Piazza Lauro de Bosis 15,00135 Rome, Italy; E-mail:

Submitted for publication March 2011.

Accepted for publication April 2011.

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©2011The American College of Sports Medicine