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Exp Cell Res. 2010 Apr 1;316(6):1061-9. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2010.01.003. Epub 2010 Jan 11.

Halofuginone inhibits Smad3 phosphorylation via the PI3K/Akt and MAPK/ERK pathways in muscle cells: effect on myotube fusion.

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Department of Animal Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, PO Box 12, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Halofuginone, a novel inhibitor of Smad3 phosphorylation, has been shown to inhibit muscle fibrosis and to improve cardiac and skeletal muscle functions in the mdx mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Here, we demonstrate that halofuginone promotes the phosphorylation of Akt and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family members in a C2 muscle cell line and in primary myoblasts derived from wild-type and mdx mice diaphragms. Halofuginone enhanced the association of phosphorylated Akt and MAPK/extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK) with the non-phosphorylated form of Smad3, accompanied by a reduction in Smad3 phosphorylation levels. This reduction was reversed by inhibitors of the phosphoinositide 3'-kinase/Akt (PI3K/Akt) and MAPK/ERK pathways, suggesting their specific role in mediating halofuginone's inhibitory effect on Smad3 phosphorylation. Halofuginone enhanced Akt, MAPK/ERK and p38 MAPK phosphorylation and inhibited Smad3 phosphorylation in myotubes, all of which are crucial for myotube fusion. In addition, halofuginone increased the association Akt and MAPK/ERK with Smad3. As a consequence, halofuginone promoted myotube fusion, as reflected by an increased percentage of C2 and mdx myotubes containing high numbers of nuclei, and this was reversed by specific inhibitors of the PI3K and MAPK/ERK pathways. Together, the data suggest a role, either direct or via inhibition of Smad3 phosphorylation, for Akt or MAPK/ERK in halofuginone-enhanced myotube fusion, a feature which is crucial to improving muscle function in muscular dystrophies.

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