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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2011 Jun;300(6):H1973-82. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00200.2011. Epub 2011 Mar 18.

Myostatin from the heart: local and systemic actions in cardiac failure and muscle wasting.

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Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Klinik für Kardiologie und Angiologie, Rebirth-Cluster of Excellence, Carl-Neuberg-Str.1, 30625 Hannover, Germany.


A significant proportion of heart failure patients develop skeletal muscle wasting and cardiac cachexia, which is associated with a very poor prognosis. Recently, myostatin, a cytokine from the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) family and a known strong inhibitor of skeletal muscle growth, has been identified as a direct mediator of skeletal muscle atrophy in mice with heart failure. Myostatin is mainly expressed in skeletal muscle, although basal expression is also detectable in heart and adipose tissue. During pathological loading of the heart, the myocardium produces and secretes myostatin into the circulation where it inhibits skeletal muscle growth. Thus, genetic elimination of myostatin from the heart reduces skeletal muscle atrophy in mice with heart failure, whereas transgenic overexpression of myostatin in the heart is capable of inducing muscle wasting. In addition to its endocrine action on skeletal muscle, cardiac myostatin production also modestly inhibits cardiomyocyte growth under certain circumstances, as well as induces cardiac fibrosis and alterations in ventricular function. Interestingly, heart failure patients show elevated myostatin levels in their serum. To therapeutically influence skeletal muscle wasting, direct inhibition of myostatin was shown to positively impact skeletal muscle mass in heart failure, suggesting a promising strategy for the treatment of cardiac cachexia in the future.

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