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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Apr 1;124(4):840-849. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00894.2017. Epub 2017 Dec 14.

Fiber type-specific analysis of AMPK isoforms in human skeletal muscle: advancement in methods via capillary nanoimmunoassay.

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Biochemistry and Molecular Exercise Physiology Laboratory, Center for Sport Performance, California State University , Fullerton, California.
Muscle Physiology Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, San Francisco State University , San Francisco, California.


Human skeletal muscle is a heterogeneous mixture of multiple fiber types (FT). Unfortunately, present methods for FT-specific study are constrained by limits of protein detection in single-fiber samples. These limitations beget compensatory resource-intensive procedures, ultimately dissuading investigators from pursuing FT-specific research. Additionally, previous studies neglected hybrid FT, confining their analyses to only pure FT. Here we present novel methods of protein detection across a wider spectrum of human skeletal muscle FT using fully automated capillary nanoimmunoassay (CNIA) technology. CNIA allowed a ~20-fold-lower limit of 5'-AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) detection compared with Western blotting. We then performed FT-specific assessment of AMPK expression as a proof of concept. Individual human muscle fibers were mechanically isolated, dissolved, and myosin heavy chain (MHC) fiber typed via SDS-PAGE. Single-fiber samples were combined in pairs and grouped into MHC I, MHC I/IIa, MHC IIa, and MHC IIa/IIx for expression analysis of AMPK isoforms α1, α2, β1, β2, γ2, and γ3 with a tubulin loading control. Significant FT-specific differences were found for α2 (1.7-fold higher in MHC IIa and MHC IIa/IIx vs. others), γ2 (2.5-fold higher in MHC IIa vs. others), and γ3 (2-fold higher in MHC IIa and 4-fold higher in MHC IIa/IIx vs. others). Development of a protocol that combines the efficient and sensitive CNIA technology with comprehensive SDS-PAGE fiber typing marks an important advancement in FT-specific research because it allows more precise study of the molecular mechanisms governing metabolism, adaptation, and regulation in human muscle. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We demonstrate the viability of applying capillary nanoimmunoassay technology to the study of fiber type-specific protein analysis in human muscle fibers. This novel technique enables a ~20-fold-lower limit of protein detection compared with traditional Western blotting methods. Combined with SDS-PAGE methods of fiber typing, we apply this technique to compare 5'-AMP-activated protein kinase isoform expression in myosin heavy chain (MHC) I, MHC I/IIa, MHC IIa, and MHC IIa/IIx fiber types.


Western blotting; adenosine 5′-monophosphate-activated protein kinase; capillary nanoimmunoassay; fiber type-specific; human skeletal muscle fibers

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