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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. rfrost@psu.edu


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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