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J Biol Chem. 2004 Jun 18;279(25):26192-200. Epub 2004 Apr 13.

Genetic loss of calcineurin blocks mechanical overload-induced skeletal muscle fiber type switching but not hypertrophy.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229-3039, USA.


The serine/threonine phosphatase calcineurin is an important regulator of calcium-activated intracellular responses in eukaryotic cells. In higher eukaryotes, calcium/calmodulin-mediated activation of calcineurin facilitates direct dephosphorylation and nuclear translocation of the transcription factor nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT). Recently, controversy has surrounded the role of calcineurin in mediating skeletal muscle cell hypertrophy. Here we examined the ability of calcineurin-deficient mice to undergo skeletal muscle hypertrophic growth following mechanical overload (MOV) stimulation or insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) stimulation. Two distinct models of calcineurin deficiency were employed: calcineurin Abeta gene-targeted mice, which show a approximately 50% reduction in total calcineurin, and calcineurin B1-LoxP-targeted mice crossed with a myosin light chain 1f cre knock-in allele, which show a greater than 80% loss of total calcineurin only in skeletal muscle. Calcineurin Abeta-/- and calcineurin B1-LoxP(fl/fl)-MLC-cre mice show essentially no defects in muscle growth in response to IGF-1 treatment or MOV stimulation, although calcineurin Abeta-/- mice show a basal defect in total fiber number in the plantaris and a mild secondary reduction in growth, consistent with a developmental defect in myogenesis. Both groups of gene-targeted mice show normal increases in Akt activation following MOV or IGF-1 stimulation. However, overload-mediated fiber-type switching was dramatically impaired in calcineurin B1-LoxP(fl/fl)-MLC-cre mice. NFAT-luciferase reporter transgenic mice failed to show a correlation between IGF-1- or MOV-induced hypertrophy and calcineurin-NFAT-dependent signaling in vivo. We conclude that calcineurin expression is important during myogenesis and fiber-type switching, but not for muscle growth in response to hypertrophic stimuli.

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