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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2013 Mar 1;304(5):C422-30. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00240.2012. Epub 2012 Dec 5.

Adaptive plasticity of autophagic proteins to denervation in aging skeletal muscle.

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School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Aging muscle exhibits a progressive decline in mass and strength, known as sarcopenia, and a decrease in the adaptive response to contractile activity. The molecular mechanisms mediating this reduced plasticity have yet to be elucidated. The purposes of this study were 1) to determine whether denervation-induced muscle disuse would increase the expression of autophagy genes and 2) to examine whether selective autophagy pathways (mitophagy) are altered in aged animals. Denervation reduced muscle mass in young and aged animals by 24 and 16%, respectively. Moreover, young animals showed a 50% decrease in mitochondrial content following denervation, an adaptation that was not matched by aged animals. Basal autophagy protein expression was higher in aged animals, whereas young animals exhibited a greater induction of autophagy proteins following denervation. Localization of LC3II, Parkin, and p62 was significantly increased in the mitochondrial fraction of young and aged animals following denervation. Moreover, the unfolded protein response marker CHOP and the mitochondrial dynamics protein Fis1 were increased by 17- and 2.5-fold, respectively, in aged animals. Lipofuscin granules within lysosomes were evident with aging and denervation. Thus reductions in the adaptive plasticity of aged muscle are associated with decreases in disuse-induced autophagy. These data indicate that the expression of autophagy proteins and their localization to mitochondria are not decreased in aged muscle; however, the induction of autophagy in response to disuse, along with downstream events such as lysosome function, is impaired. This may contribute to an accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria in aged muscle.

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