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Endocrinology. 2011 Jan;152(1):151-63. doi: 10.1210/en.2010-0248. Epub 2010 Nov 24.

Ethyl pyruvate preserves IGF-I sensitivity toward mTOR substrates and protein synthesis in C2C12 myotubes.

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  • 1Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology (H166), Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, 500 University Drive, Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033, USA.


Bacterial infection decreases skeletal muscle protein synthesis via inhibition of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), a key regulator of translation initiation. To better define the mechanism by which muscle mTOR activity is decreased, we used an in vitro model of C2C12 myotubes treated with endotoxin [lipopolysaccharide (LPS)]and interferon (IFN)-γ to determine whether stable lipophilic pyruvate derivatives restore mTOR signaling. Myotubes treated with a combination of LPS and IFNγ down-regulated the phosphorylation of the mTOR substrates S6 kinase-1 and 4E binding protein-1. The phosphorylation of ribosomal protein S6 was decreased, whereas phosphorylation of elongation factor-2 was enhanced; all results consistent with defects in both translation initiation and elongation. LPS/IFNγ decreased protein synthesis 60% in myotubes. Treatment with methyl or ethyl pyruvate partially protected against the LPS/IFNγ-induced fall in mTOR signaling. The protective effect of ethyl and methyl pyruvate could not be replicated by an equimolar amount of sodium pyruvate. Although LPS/IFNγ treated myotubes were initially IGF-I responsive, prolonged exposure (≥ 17 h) resulted in IGF-I resistance at the level of mTOR despite normal IGF-I receptor phosphorylation. Ethyl pyruvate treatment restored IGF-I sensitivity as evidenced by the left shift in the IGF-I dose-response curve and maintained IGF-I responsiveness for a prolonged period of time. Ethyl pyruvate also restored IGF-I-stimulated protein synthesis in LPS/IFNγ-treated myotubes. Cotreatment with N-acetyl cysteine or ascorbic acid also preserved IGF-I sensitivity and mTOR activity. The data suggest that the combination of LPS and IFNγ inhibits mTOR activity and that prolonged exposure induces IGF-I resistance in myotubes. Lipophilic pyruvate derivatives and antioxidants show promise at rescuing mTOR activity and muscle protein synthesis by maintaining IGF-I sensitivity in this model.

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