Skeletal muscle atrophy is a consequence of many diseases, environmental insults, inactivity, age and injury. Atrophy is characterized by active degradation and removal of contractile proteins and a reduction in fiber size. Animal models have been extensively used to identify pathways leading to atrophic conditions. Here we have used genome-wide expression profiling analysis and quantitative PCR to identify the molecular changes that occur in two clinically relevant animal mouse models of muscle atrophy, hindlimb casting and Achilles tendon laceration (tenotomy). Gastrocnemius muscle samples were collected 2, 7 and 14 days after insult. The total amount of muscle loss as measured by wet weight and muscle fiber size was equivalent between models, although tenotomy resulted in a more rapid induction of muscle atrophy. Furthermore, tentomy resulted in the regulation of significantly more mRNA transcripts then casting. Analysis of the regulated genes and pathways suggest that the mechanism of atrophy is distinct between these models. The degradation following casting appears ubiquitin-proteasome-mediated while degradation following tenotomy appears lysosomal and matrix-metalloproteinase (MMP)-mediated. This data suggests that there are multiple mechanisms leading to muscle atrophy and that specific therapeutic agents may be necessary to combat the atrophy seen under different conditions.
Muscle atrophy was induced through two methods; unloading induced by tendon laceration (Tenotomy) and immobilization induced by hindlimb casting (Casting). For the tenotomy, eight week old male C57/B6 mice were anesthetized by ether inhalation and subsequent intramuscular injection of ketamine-xylazine (0.1 ml/g). The right Achilles tendon just proximal to the calcaneus was severed with a sterile scalpel. The mice were allowed to recover and move freely about their cage. An additional cohort of animals was sham operated (Sham) which involved isolation and manipulation of the Achilles tendon without laceration. For the casting, the right hindlimbs of eight week old male C57Bl/6 mice were immobilized through casting. After 2, 7 or 14 days, animals were sacrificed and the left and right gastrocnemius muscles were carefully removed, flash frozen in liquid nitrogen, and stored at -80°C for further processing. The left untreated legs served as controls. A group of naïve animals that received no treatment or manipulation was included as an additional control. Each group consisted of between 5 and 10 samples for a total of 111 individual samples.