Loss of muscle proteins and the consequent weakness has important clinical consequences in diseases such as cancer, diabetes, chronic heart failure, and in aging. In fact, excessive proteolysis causes cachexia, accelerates disease progression, and worsens life expectancy. Muscle atrophy involves a common pattern of transcriptional changes in a small subset of genes named atrophy-related genes or atrogenes. Whether microRNAs play a role in the atrophy program and muscle loss is debated. To understand the involvement of miRNAs in atrophy we performed miRNA expression profiling of mouse muscles under wasting conditions such as fasting, denervation, diabetes, and cancer cachexia. We found that the miRNA signature is peculiar of each catabolic condition. We then focused on denervation and we revealed that changes in transcripts and microRNAs expression did not occur simultaneously but were shifted. Indeed, whereas transcriptional control of the atrophy-related genes peaks at 3 days, changes of miRNA expression maximized at 7 days after denervation. Among the different miRNAs, microRNA-206 and -21 were the most induced in denervated muscles. We characterized their pattern of expression and defined their role in muscle homeostasis. Indeed, in vivo gain and loss of function experiments revealed that miRNA-206 and miRNA-21 were sufficient and required for atrophy program. In silico and in vivo approaches identified transcription factor YY1 and the translational initiator factor eIF4E3 as downstream targets of these miRNAs. Thus miRNAs are important for fine-tuning the atrophy program and their modulation can be a novel potential therapeutic approach to counteract muscle loss and weakness in catabolic conditions.
Despite the economic and medical importance of the pig, knowledge about its genome organization, gene expression regulation, and molecular mechanisms involved in physiological processes is far from that achieved for mouse and rat, the two most used model organisms in biomedical research. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a wide class of molecules that exert a recognized role in gene expression modulation, but only 280 miRNAs in pig have been characterized to date.
During myogenesis, myoblasts fuse into multinucleated myotubes that acquire the contractile fibrils and accessory structures typical of striated skeletal muscle fibers. To support the high energy requirements of muscle contraction, myogenesis entails an increase in mitochondrial (mt) mass with stimulation of mtDNA synthesis and consumption of DNA precursors (dNTPs). Myotubes are quiescent cells and as such down-regulate dNTP production despite a high demand for dNTPs. Although myogenesis has been studied extensively, changes in dNTP metabolism have not been examined specifically. In differentiating cultures of C2C12 myoblasts and purified myotubes, we analyzed expression and activities of enzymes of dNTP biosynthesis, dNTP pools, and the expansion of mtDNA. Myotubes exibited pronounced post-mitotic modifications of dNTP synthesis with a particularly marked down-regulation of de novo thymidylate synthesis. Expression profiling revealed the same pattern of enzyme down-regulation in adult murine muscles. The mtDNA increased steadily after myoblast fusion, turning over rapidly, as revealed after treatment with ethidium bromide. We individually down-regulated p53R2 ribonucleotide reductase, thymidine kinase 2, and deoxyguanosine kinase by siRNA transfection to examine how a further reduction of these synthetic enzymes impacted myotube development. Silencing of p53R2 had little effect, but silencing of either mt kinase caused 50% mtDNA depletion and an unexpected decrease of all four dNTP pools independently of the kinase specificity. We suggest that during development of myotubes the shortage of even a single dNTP may affect all four pools through dysregulation of ribonucleotide reduction and/or dissipation of the non-limiting dNTPs during unproductive elongation of new DNA chains.
Skeletal muscle is a complex, versatile tissue composed of a variety of functionally diverse fiber types. Although the biochemical, structural and functional properties of myofibers have been the subject of intense investigation for the last decades, understanding molecular processes regulating fiber type diversity is still complicated by the heterogeneity of cell types present in the whole muscle organ.
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