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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Oct;287(4):E591-601. Epub 2004 Apr 20.

IGF-I stimulates muscle growth by suppressing protein breakdown and expression of atrophy-related ubiquitin ligases, atrogin-1 and MuRF1.

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Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, 240 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA 02115, USA.
Harvard Med Sch, Boston, MA


Muscle atrophy results primarily from accelerated protein degradation and is associated with increased expression of two muscle-specific ubiquitin ligases (E3s): atrogin-1 and muscle ring finger 1 (MuRF1). Glucocorticoids are essential for many types of muscle atrophy, and their effects are opposite to those of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) and insulin, which promote growth. In myotubes, dexamethasone (Dex) inhibited growth and enhanced breakdown of long-lived cell proteins, especially myofibrillar proteins (as measured by 3-methylhistidine release), while also increasing atrogin-1 and MuRF1 mRNA. Conversely, IGF-I suppressed protein degradation and prevented the Dex-induced increase in proteolysis. IGF-I rapidly reduced atrogin-1 expression within 1 h by blocking mRNA synthesis without affecting mRNA degradation, whereas IGF-I decreased MuRF1 mRNA slowly. IGF-I and insulin also blocked Dex induction of these E3s and several other atrophy-related genes ("atrogenes"). Changes in overall proteolysis with Dex and IGF-I correlated tightly with changes in atrogin-1 mRNA content, but not with changes in MuRF1 mRNA. IGF-I activates the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt pathway, and inhibition of this pathway [but not the calcineurin-nuclear factor of activated T cell (NFAT) or the MEK-ERK pathway] increased proteolysis and atrogin-1 mRNA expression. Thus an important component of growth stimulation by IGF-I, through the PI3K-Akt pathway, is its ability to rapidly suppress transcription of the atrophy-related E3 atrogin-1 and other atrogenes and degradation of myofibrillar proteins.

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