It is commonly accepted that skeletal muscles from dystrophin-deficient mdx mice are more susceptible than those from wild-type mice to damage from eccentric contractions. However, the downstream mechanisms involved in this enhanced force drop remain controversial. We studied the reduction of contractile force induced by eccentric contractions elicited in vivo in the gastrocnemius muscle of wild-type mice and three distinct models of muscle dystrophy: mdx, alpha-sarcoglycan (Sgca)-null, and collagen 6A1 (Col6a1)-null mice. In mdx and Sgca-null mice, force decreased 35% compared with 14% in wild-type mice. Drop of force in Col6a1-null mice was comparable to that in wild-type mice. To identify the determinants of the force drop, we measured force generation in permeabilized fibers dissected from gastrocnemius muscle that had been exposed in vivo to eccentric contractions and from the contralateral unstimulated muscle. A force loss in skinned fibers after in vivo eccentric contractions was detectable in fibers from mdx and Sgca-null, but not wild-type and Col6a1-null, mice. The enhanced force reduction in mdx and Sgca-null mice was observed only when eccentric contractions were elicited in vivo, since eccentric contractions elicited in vitro had identical effects in wild-type and dystrophic skinned fibers. These results suggest that 1) the enhanced force loss is due to a myofibrillar impairment that is present in all fibers, and not to individual fiber degeneration, and 2) the mechanism causing the enhanced force reduction is active in vivo and is lost after fiber permeabilization.
A better understanding of the signaling pathways that control muscle growth is required to identify appropriate countermeasures to prevent or reverse the loss of muscle mass and force induced by aging, disuse, or neuromuscular diseases. However, two major issues in this field have not yet been fully addressed. The first concerns the pathways involved in leading to physiological changes in muscle size. Muscle hypertrophy based on perturbations of specific signaling pathways is either characterized by impaired force generation, e.g., myostatin knockout, or incompletely studied from the physiological point of view, e.g., IGF-1 overexpression. A second issue is whether satellite cell proliferation and incorporation into growing muscle fibers is required for a functional hypertrophy. To address these issues, we used an inducible transgenic model of muscle hypertrophy by short-term Akt activation in adult skeletal muscle. In this model, Akt activation for 3 wk was followed by marked hypertrophy ( approximately 50% of muscle mass) and by increased force generation, as determined in vivo by ankle plantar flexor stimulation, ex vivo in intact isolated diaphragm strips, and in single-skinned muscle fibers. No changes in fiber-type distribution and resistance to fatigue were detectable. Bromodeoxyuridine incorporation experiments showed that Akt-dependent muscle hypertrophy was accompanied by proliferation of interstitial cells but not by satellite cell activation and new myonuclei incorporation, pointing to an increase in myonuclear domain size. We can conclude that during a fast hypertrophic growth myonuclear domain can increase without compromising muscle performance.
The ubiquitin-proteasome and autophagy-lysosome pathways are the two major routes for protein and organelle clearance. In skeletal muscle, both systems are under FoxO regulation and their excessive activation induces severe muscle loss. Although altered autophagy has been observed in various myopathies, the specific role of autophagy in skeletal muscle has not been determined by loss-of-function approaches. Here, we report that muscle-specific deletion of a crucial autophagy gene, Atg7, resulted in profound muscle atrophy and age-dependent decrease in force. Atg7 null muscles showed accumulation of abnormal mitochondria, sarcoplasmic reticulum distension, disorganization of sarcomere, and formation of aberrant concentric membranous structures. Autophagy inhibition exacerbated muscle loss during denervation and fasting. Thus, autophagy flux is important to preserve muscle mass and to maintain myofiber integrity. Our results suggest that inhibition/alteration of autophagy can contribute to myofiber degeneration and weakness in muscle disorders characterized by accumulation of abnormal mitochondria and inclusions.
The presence and role of functional inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP(3)) receptors (IP(3)Rs) in adult skeletal muscle are controversial. The current consensus is that, in adult striated muscle, the relative amount of IP(3)Rs is too low and the kinetics of Ca(2+) release from IP(3)R is too slow compared with ryanodine receptors to contribute to the Ca(2+) transient during excitation-contraction coupling. However, it has been suggested that IP(3)-dependent Ca(2+) release may be involved in signaling cascades leading to regulation of muscle gene expression. We have reinvestigated IP(3)-dependent Ca(2+) release in isolated flexor digitorum brevis (FDB) muscle fibers from adult mice. Although Ca(2+) transients were readily induced in cultured C2C12 muscle cells by (a) UTP stimulation, (b) direct injection of IP(3), or (c) photolysis of membrane-permeant caged IP(3), no statistically significant change in calcium signal was detected in adult FDB fibers. We conclude that the IP(3)-IP(3)R system does not appear to affect global calcium levels in adult mouse skeletal muscle.
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