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J Physiol. 2012 Mar 15;590(6):1427-42. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.223370. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

Nitric oxide synthase inhibition prevents activity-induced calcineurin-NFATc1 signalling and fast-to-slow skeletal muscle fibre type conversions.

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Exercise Biochemistry Laboratory, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2H9.


The calcineurin–NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T-cells) signalling pathway is involved in the regulation of activity-dependent skeletal muscle myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoform type expression. Emerging evidence indicates that nitric oxide (NO) may play a critical role in this regulatory pathway. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate the role of NO in activity-induced calcineurin–NFATc1 signalling leading to skeletal muscle faster-to-slower fibre type transformations in vivo. Endogenous NO production was blocked by administering L-NAME (0.75 mg ml(−1)) in drinking water throughout 0, 1, 2, 5 or 10 days of chronic low-frequency stimulation (CLFS; 10 Hz, 12 h day(−1)) of rat fast-twitch muscles (L+Stim; n = 30) and outcomes were compared with control rats receiving only CLFS (Stim; n = 30). Western blot and immunofluorescence analyses revealed that CLFS induced an increase in NFATc1 dephosphorylation and nuclear localisation, sustained by glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3β phosphorylation in Stim, which were all abolished in L+Stim. Moreover, real-time RT-PCR revealed that CLFS induced an increased expression of MHC-I, -IIa and -IId(x) mRNAs in Stim that was abolished in L+Stim. SDS-PAGE and immunohistochemical analyses revealed that CLFS induced faster-to-slower MHC protein and fibre type transformations, respectively, within the fast fibre population of both Stim and L+Stim groups. The final fast type IIA to slow type I transformation, however, was prevented in L+Stim. It is concluded that NO regulates activity-induced MHC-based faster-to-slower fibre type transformations at the transcriptional level via inhibitory GSK-3β-induced facilitation of calcineurin–NFATc1 nuclear accumulation in vivo, whereas transformations within the fast fibre population may also involve translational control mechanisms independent of NO signalling.

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