One of the main sources of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in skeletal muscle is the mitochondria. Prolonged or very high ROS exposure causes oxidative damage, which can be deleterious to muscle function, and as such, there is growing interest in targeting antioxidants to the mitochondria in an effort to prevent or treat muscle dysfunction and damage associated with disease and injury. Paradoxically, however, ROS also act as important signalling molecules in controlling cellular homeostasis, and therefore caution must be taken when supplementing with antioxidants. It is possible that mitochondria-targeted antioxidants may limit oxidative stress without suppressing ROS from non-mitochondrial sources that might be important for cell signalling. Therefore, in this review, we summarise literature relating to the effect of mitochondria-targeted antioxidants on skeletal muscle function. Overall, mitochondria-targeted antioxidants appear to exert beneficial effects on mitochondrial capacity and function, insulin sensitivity and age-related declines in muscle function. However, it seems that this is dependent on the type of mitochondrial-trageted antioxidant employed, and its specific mechanism of action, rather than simply targeting to the mitochondria.
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