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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2005 Oct;37(10):2115-33. Epub 2005 Feb 9.

Calpains in muscle wasting.

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Généthon, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique UMR 8115, 1 bis rue de l'Internationale, 91000 Evry, France.


Calpains are intracellular nonlysosomal Ca(2+)-regulated cysteine proteases. They mediate regulatory cleavages of specific substrates in a large number of processes during the differentiation, life and death of the cell. The purpose of this review is to synthesize our current understanding of the participation of calpains in muscle atrophy. Muscle tissue expresses mainly three different calpains: the ubiquitous calpains and calpain 3. The participation of the ubiquitous calpains in the initial degradation of myofibrillar proteins occurring in muscle atrophy as well as in the necrosis process accompanying muscular dystrophies has been well characterized. Inactivating mutations in the calpain 3 gene are responsible for limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2A and calpain 3 has been found to be downregulated in different atrophic situations, suggesting that it has to be absent for the atrophy to occur. The fact that similar regulations of calpain activities occur during exercise as well as in atrophy led us to propose that the calpains control cytoskeletal modifications needed for muscle plasticity.

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