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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2003 Nov;285(5):C1161-73. Epub 2003 Jul 2.

Nerve activity-independent regulation of skeletal muscle atrophy: role of MyoD and myogenin in satellite cells and myonuclei.

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Department of Physiological Science, University of California-Los Angeles, 621 Charles E. Young Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Electrical activity is thought to be the primary neural stimulus regulating muscle mass, expression of myogenic regulatory factor genes, and cellular activity within skeletal muscle. However, the relative contribution of neural influences that are activity-dependent and -independent in modulating these characteristics is unclear. Comparisons of denervation (no neural influence) and spinal cord isolation (SI, neural influence with minimal activity) after 3, 14, and 28 days of treatment were used to demonstrate whether there are neural influences on muscle that are activity independent. Furthermore, the effects of these manipulations were compared for a fast ankle extensor (medial gastrocnemius) and a fast ankle flexor (tibialis anterior). The mass of both muscles plateaued at approximately 60% of control 2 wk after SI, whereas both muscles progressively atrophied to <25% of initial mass at this same time point after denervation. A rapid increase in myogenin and, to a lesser extent, MyoD mRNAs and proteins was observed in denervated and SI muscles: at the later time points, these myogenic regulatory factors remained elevated in denervated, but not in SI, muscles. This widespread neural activity-independent influence on MyoD and myogenin expression was observed in myonuclei and satellite cells and was not specific for fast or slow fiber phenotypes. Mitotic activity of satellite and connective tissue cells also was consistently lower in SI than in denervated muscles. These results demonstrate a neural effect independent of electrical activity that 1) helps preserve muscle mass, 2) regulates muscle-specific genes, and 3) potentially spares the satellite cell pool in inactive muscles.

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