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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Nov;285(5):E1081-8. Epub 2003 Jul 1.

Akt signaling in skeletal muscle: regulation by exercise and passive stretch.

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Research Division, Joslin Diabetes Center and Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Akt/protein kinase B is a serine/threonine kinase that has emerged as a critical signaling component for mediating numerous cellular responses. Contractile activity has recently been demonstrated to stimulate Akt signaling in skeletal muscle. Whether physiological exercise in vivo activates Akt is controversial, and the initiating factors that result in the stimulation of Akt during contractile activity are unknown. In the current study, we demonstrate that treadmill running exercise of rats using two different protocols (intermediate high or high-intensity exhaustive exercise) significantly increases Akt activity and phosphorylation in skeletal muscle composed of various fiber types. To determine if Akt activation during contractile activity is triggered by mechanical forces applied to the skeletal muscle, isolated skeletal muscles were incubated and passively stretched. Passive stretch for 10 min significantly increased Akt activity (2-fold) in the fast-twitch extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscle. However, stretch had no effect on Akt in the slow-twitch soleus muscle, although there was a robust phosphorylation of the stress-activated protein kinase p38. Similar to contraction, stretch-induced Akt activation in the EDL was fully inhibited in the presence of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitor wortmannin, whereas glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3) phosphorylation was only partially inhibited. Stretch did not cause dephosphorylation of glycogen synthase on GSK3-targeted sites in the absence or presence of wortmannin. We conclude that physiological exercise in vivo activates Akt in multiple skeletal muscle fiber types and that mechanical tension may be a part of the mechanism by which contraction activates Akt in fast-twitch muscles.

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