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J Physiol. 2003 Aug 15;551(Pt 1):33-48. Epub 2003 Jul 4.

Global analysis of gene expression patterns during disuse atrophy in rat skeletal muscle.

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Department of Health Sciences, Boston University, 635 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Muscular inactivity leads to atrophy, weakness, and decreased fatigue resistance. In order to provide a window into the dynamic processes that underlie muscle atrophy, we performed global gene expression analysis of rat soleus muscles using Affymetrix GeneChips at 1, 4, 7 and 14 days of hindlimb unloading. Expression of 309 known genes was significantly changed by at least 2-fold (212 upregulated, 97 downregulated). K-means clustering was used to divide these genes into co-regulated clusters based on the similarity of temporal expression patterns. This allowed the development of a timeline of the atrophy process with respect to the behaviour of genes in a broad array of functional categories. Regulatory genes were often upregulated early, in either a transient or sustained manner, but they also populated clusters with later patterns of activation, suggesting different phases of molecular adaptations. Other early events were the activation of ubiquitination genes and downregulation of protein chaperones. In comparison, clusters representing slightly delayed activation patterns included genes involved in fast contraction, glycolysis, translational inhibition, oxidative stress, protein degradation, and amino acid catabolism. Downregulated genes exhibited fewer unique expression patterns and included structural and regulatory genes of the extracellular matrix and cytoskeleton, and genes that define a slow-oxidative phenotype. Other novel findings include the tight co-activation of proteasome subunit and ubiquitination genes, differential regulation of serine proteases and serine protease inhibitors, and the identification of transcriptional, signalling, growth and cell cycle genes that probably play a role in the atrophy process. The present work has uncovered temporal patterns of gene expression that highlight the molecular processes that underlie muscle atrophy and provide new avenues for study.

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