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Mol Cell Biol. 2013 Jan;33(2):194-212. doi: 10.1128/MCB.01036-12. Epub 2012 Oct 29.

Genomic and proteomic profiling reveals reduced mitochondrial function and disruption of the neuromuscular junction driving rat sarcopenia.

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Muscle Diseases Group, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


Molecular mechanisms underlying sarcopenia, the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and function, remain unclear. To identify molecular changes that correlated best with sarcopenia and might contribute to its pathogenesis, we determined global gene expression profiles in muscles of rats aged 6, 12, 18, 21, 24, and 27 months. These rats exhibit sarcopenia beginning at 21 months. Correlation of the gene expression versus muscle mass or age changes, and functional annotation analysis identified gene signatures of sarcopenia distinct from gene signatures of aging. Specifically, mitochondrial energy metabolism (e.g., tricarboxylic acid cycle and oxidative phosphorylation) pathway genes were the most downregulated and most significantly correlated with sarcopenia. Also, perturbed were genes/pathways associated with neuromuscular junction patency (providing molecular evidence of sarcopenia-related functional denervation and neuromuscular junction remodeling), protein degradation, and inflammation. Proteomic analysis of samples at 6, 18, and 27 months confirmed the depletion of mitochondrial energy metabolism proteins and neuromuscular junction proteins. Together, these findings suggest that therapeutic approaches that simultaneously stimulate mitochondrogenesis and reduce muscle proteolysis and inflammation have potential for treating sarcopenia.

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