European Respiratory Journal vol:8 issue:5 pages:824-30
The extent to which treatment with low doses of the nonfluorinated steroid methylprednisolone affects diaphragm contractility and morphology is unknown. In the present study, we compared the effects of equipotent doses of methylprednisolone and deflazacort, an oxazoline derivate of prednisolone with less systemic side-effects on bone structure and carbohydrate metabolism. Twenty six male adult rats were randomized to receive daily saline (control), methylprednisolone 0.4 mg.kg-1 or deflazacort 0.5 mg.kg-1 i.m. Contractile properties and histopathology were measured after a 6 week treatment period. During treatment, body weight increased in control and methylprednisolone-treated animals, but decreased by 4.2 +/- 1.1% (mean +/- SD) in the deflazacort group. Similarly, diaphragm mass in the deflazacort group was decreased compared to control and methylprednisolone groups. Twitch tension and twitch characteristics of isolated diaphragm bundles were similar in the three groups. Maximal tetanic tension was decreased in the deflazacort group. The force-frequency curve of the deflazacort bundles shifted downwards compared to control. Fatigue occurring during this protocol was greatest in the methylprednisolone- and deflazacort-treated animals. Microscopic examination revealed no gross abnormalities in the three groups. Histochemical analysis after staining for myosin adenosine triphosphatase (ATP-ase) showed that in the deflazacort group cross-sectional area of type I, IIa and IIb fibres were decreased. We conclude that low doses of methylprednisolone caused subtle and negligible changes in rat diaphragm contractile properties without affecting fibre dimensions, while deflazacort at an equipotent dose induced generalized fibre atrophy and changes in diaphragm contractility.