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PLoS One. 2009 Jun 24;4(6):e6027. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006027.

Association of interleukin-6 signalling with the muscle stem cell response following muscle-lengthening contractions in humans.

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Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.



The regulation of muscle stem cells in humans in response to muscle injury remains largely undefined. Recently, interleukin-6 (IL-6) has been implicated in muscle stem cell (satellite cell)-mediated muscle hypertrophy in animals; however, the role of IL-6 in the satellite cell (SC) response following muscle-lengthening contractions in humans has not been studied.


Eight subjects (age 22+/-1 y; 79+/-8 kg) performed 300 maximal unilateral lengthening contractions (3.14 rad.s(-1)) of the knee extensors. Blood and muscle samples were collected before and at 4, 24, 72, and 120 hours post intervention. IL-6, IL-6 receptor, IL-6R(alpha), cyclin D1, suppressor of cytokine signling-3 (SOCS3) mRNA were measured using quantitative RT-PCR and serum IL-6 protein was measured using an ELISA kit. JAK2 and STAT3 phosphorylated and total protein was measured using western blotting techniques. Immunohistochemical analysis of muscle cross-sections was performed for the quantification of SCs (Pax7(+) cells) as well as the expression of phosphorylated STAT3, IL-6, IL-6R(alpha), and PCNA across all time-points. The SC response, as defined by an amplification of Pax7(+) cells, was rapid, increasing by 24 h and peaking 72 h following the intervention. Muscle IL-6 mRNA increased following the intervention, which correlated strongly (R(2) = 0.89, p<0.002) with an increase in serum IL-6 concentration. SC IL-6R(alpha) protein was expressed on the fiber, but was also localized to the SC, and IL-6(+) SC increased rapidly following muscle-lengthening contractions and returned to basal levels by 72 h post-intervention, demonstrating an acute temporal expression of IL-6 with SC. Phosphorylated STAT3 was evident in SCs 4 h after lengthening contraction, and the downstream genes, cyclin D1 and SOCS3 were significantly elevated 24 hours after the intervention.


The increased expression of STAT3 responsive genes and expression of IL-6 within SCs demonstrate that IL-6/STAT3 signaling occurred in SCs, correlating with an increase in SC proliferation, evidenced by increased Pax7(+)/PCNA(+) cell number in the early stages of the time-course. Collectively, these data illustrate that IL-6 is an important signaling molecule associated with the SC response to acute muscle-lengthening contractions in humans.

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