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Concept: Atrophy


Flavonoids have attracted considerable attention in relation to their effects upon health. 8-Prenylnaringenin (8-PN) is found in the common hop (Humulus lupulus) and assumed to be responsible for the health impact of beer consumption. We wanted to clarify the effects of prenylation on the physiological functions of dietary flavonoids by comparing the effects of 8-PN with that of intact naringenin in the prevention of disuse muscle atrophy using a model of denervation in mice. Consumption of 8-PN (but not naringenin) prevented loss of weight in the gastrocnemius muscle further supported by the lack of induction of the protein content of a key ubiquitin ligase involved in muscle atrophy, atrogin-1, and by the activation of Akt phosphorylation. 8-PN content in the gastrocnemius muscle was tenfold higher than that of naringenin. These results suggested that, compared with naringenin, 8-PN was effectively concentrated into skeletal muscle to exert its preventive effects upon disuse muscle atrophy. It is likely that prenylation generates novel functions for 8-PN by enhancing its accumulation into muscle tissue through dietary intake.

Concepts: Nutrition, Muscle, Posttranslational modification, Muscle atrophy, Atrophy, Humulus lupulus, Hops, Humulus


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a devastating genetic muscular disorder of childhood marked by progressive debilitating muscle weakness and wasting, and ultimately death in the second or third decade of life. Wnt7a signaling through its receptor Fzd7 accelerates and augments regeneration by stimulating satellite stem cell expansion through the planar cell polarity pathway, as well as myofiber hypertrophy through the AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) anabolic pathway. We investigated the therapeutic potential of the secreted factor Wnt7a for focal treatment of dystrophic DMD muscles using the mdx mouse model, and found that Wnt7a treatment efficiently induced satellite cell expansion and myofiber hypertrophy in treated mucles in mdx mice. Importantly, Wnt7a treatment resulted in a significant increase in muscle strength, as determined by generation of specific force. Furthermore, Wnt7a reduced the level of contractile damage, likely by inducing a shift in fiber type toward slow-twitch. Finally, we found that Wnt7a similarly induced myotube hypertrophy and a shift in fiber type toward slow-twitch in human primary myotubes. Taken together, our findings suggest that Wnt7a is a promising candidate for development as an ameliorative treatment for DMD.

Concepts: Energy, Muscle, Cardiac muscle, Electromyography, Muscular system, Muscular dystrophy, Atrophy, Muscle spindle


Sarcopenia, or senile muscle atrophy, is the slow and progressive loss of muscle mass with advancing age that constitutes the most prevalent form of muscle atrophy. The effects of ageing on skeletal muscle have been extensively studied in humans and laboratory animals (mice), while the few reports on wild animals are based on short-lived mammals. The present study describes the age-related changes in cetacean muscles regarding the three factors that determine muscle mass: fibre size, fibre number, and fibre type. We show that the skeletal muscle fibres in cetaceans change with advancing age, evolving towards a slower muscle phenotype. We suggest that this physiological evolution constitutes an adaptation that allows these marine mammals to perform prolonged, deep dives.

Concepts: Muscle, Cardiac muscle, Glycogen, Muscle atrophy, Myosin, Muscular system, Acetylcholine, Atrophy


BACKGROUND: A proline-to-serine substitution at position-56 (P56S) of vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated protein B (VAPB) causes a form of dominantly inherited motor neuron disease (MND), including typical and atypical amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and a mild late-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). VAPB is an integral endoplasmic reticulum (ER) protein and has been implicated in various cellular processes, including ER stress, the unfolded protein response (UPR) and Ca2+ homeostasis. However, it is unclear how the P56S mutation leads to neurodegeneration and muscle atrophy in patients. The formation of abnormal VAPB-positive inclusions by mutant VAPB suggests a possible toxic gain of function as an underlying mechanism. Furthermore, the amount of VAPB protein is reported to be reduced in sporadic ALS patients and mutant SOD1G93A mice, leading to the hypothesis that wild type VAPB plays a role in the pathogenesis of ALS without VAPB mutations. RESULTS: To investigate the pathogenic mechanism in vivo, we generated human wild type (wtVAPB) and mutant VAPB (muVAPB) transgenic mice that expressed the transgenes broadly in the CNS. We observed robust VAPB-positive aggregates in the spinal cord of muVAPB transgenic mice. However, we failed to find an impairment of motor function and motor neuron degeneration. We also did not detect any change in the endogenous VAPB level or evidence for induction of the unfolded protein response (UPR) and coaggregation of VAPA with muVAPB. Furthermore, we crossed these VAPB transgenic mice with mice that express mutant SOD1G93A and develop motor neuron degeneration. Overexpression of neither wtVAPB nor muVAPB modulated the protein aggregation and disease progression in the SOD1G93A mice. CONCLUSION: Overexpression of VAPBP56S mutant to approximately two-fold of the endogenous VAPB in mouse spinal cord produced abundant VAPB aggregates but was not sufficient to cause motor dysfunction or motor neuron degeneration. Furthermore, overexpression of either muVAPB or wtVAPB does not modulate the course of ALS in SOD1G93A mice. These results suggest that changes in wild type VAPB do not play a significant role in ALS cases that are not caused by VAPB mutations. Furthermore, these results suggest that muVAPB aggregates are innocuous and do not cause motor neuron degeneration by a gain-of-toxicity, and therefore, a loss of function may be the underlying mechanism.

Concepts: Spinal cord, Mutation, Muscle, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Atrophy, Motor neuron, Motor neurone disease, Motor neuron disease


Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a severe and fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive loss of motoneurons, muscle atrophy and paralysis. Recent evidence suggests that ALS should be considered as a multi-systemic disease, in which several cell types contribute to motoneuron degeneration. In this view, mutations in ALS linked genes in other neural and non-neural cell types may exert non-cell autonomous effects on motoneuron survival and function. Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) have been recently derived from several patients with ALS mutations and it has been shown that they can generate motoneurons in vitro, providing a valuable tool to study ALS. However, the potential of iPSCs could be further valorized by generating other cell types that may be relevant to the pathology. In this paper, by taking advantage of a novel inducible system for MyoD expression, we show that both control iPSCs and iPSCs carrying mutations in ALS genes can generate skeletal muscle cells. We provide evidence that both control and mutant iPSC-derived myotubes are functionally active. This in vitro system will be instrumental to dissect the molecular and cellular pathways impairing the complex motoneuron microenvironment in ALS.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Muscle, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Atrophy


The purpose of this study was to test the anabolic window theory by investigating muscle strength, hypertrophy, and body composition changes in response to an equal dose of protein consumed either immediately pre- versus post-resistance training (RT) in trained men. Subjects were 21 resistance-trained men (>1 year RT experience) recruited from a university population. After baseline testing, participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 experimental groups: a group that consumed a supplement containing 25 g protein and 1 g carbohydrate immediately prior to exercise (PRE-SUPP) (n = 9) or a group that consumed the same supplement immediately post-exercise (POST-SUPP) (n = 12). The RT protocol consisted of three weekly sessions performed on non-consecutive days for 10 weeks. A total-body routine was employed with three sets of 8-12 repetitions for each exercise. Results showed that pre- and post-workout protein consumption had similar effects on all measures studied (p > 0.05). These findings refute the contention of a narrow post-exercise anabolic window to maximize the muscular response and instead lends support to the theory that the interval for protein intake may be as wide as several hours or perhaps more after a training bout depending on when the pre-workout meal was consumed.

Concepts: Metabolism, Glucose, Muscle, Physical exercise, Actin, Muscular system, Atrophy, Exercise physiology


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal and incurable neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord and brain. In particular, autosomal dominant mutations in the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene are responsible for ~20% of all familial ALS cases. The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-CRISPR-associated (Cas9) genome editing system holds the potential to treat autosomal dominant disorders by facilitating the introduction of frameshift-induced mutations that can disable mutant gene function. We demonstrate that CRISPR-Cas9 can be harnessed to disrupt mutant SOD1 expression in the G93A-SOD1 mouse model of ALS following in vivo delivery using an adeno-associated virus vector. Genome editing reduced mutant SOD1 protein by >2.5-fold in the lumbar and thoracic spinal cord, resulting in improved motor function and reduced muscle atrophy. Crucially, ALS mice treated by CRISPR-mediated genome editing had ~50% more motor neurons at end stage and displayed a ~37% delay in disease onset and a ~25% increase in survival compared to control animals. Thus, this study illustrates the potential for CRISPR-Cas9 to treat SOD1-linked forms of ALS and other central nervous system disorders caused by autosomal dominant mutations.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Spinal cord, Gene, Brain, Superoxide dismutase, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Atrophy


Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), which are commonly found in fish oil supplements, are known to possess anti-inflammatory properties and more recently alter skeletal muscle function. In this review, we discuss novel findings related to how n-3 PUFAs modulate molecular signaling responsible for growth and hypertrophy as well as the activity of muscle stem cells. Muscle stem cells commonly known as satellite cells, are primarily responsible for driving the skeletal muscle repair process to potentially damaging stimuli, such as mechanical stress elicited by exercise contraction. To date, there is a paucity of human investigations related to the effects of n-3 PUFAs on satellite cell content and activity. Based on current in vitro investigations, this review focuses on novel mechanisms linking n-3 PUFA’s to satellite cell activity and how they may improve muscle repair. Understanding the role of n-3 PUFAs during muscle growth and regeneration in association with exercise could lead to the development of novel supplementation strategies that increase muscle mass and strength, therefore possibly reducing the burden of muscle wasting with age.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acids, Muscle, Essential fatty acid, Omega-3 fatty acid, Muscular system, Unsaturated fat, Atrophy


Motor units are the fundamental elements responsible for muscle movement. They are formed by lower motor neurons and their muscle targets, synapsed via neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). The loss of NMJs in neurodegenerative disorders (such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or spinal muscle atrophy) or as a result of traumatic injuries affects millions of lives each year. Developing in vitro assays that closely recapitulate the physiology of neuromuscular tissues is crucial to understand the formation and maturation of NMJs, as well as to help unravel the mechanisms leading to their degeneration and repair. We present a microfluidic platform designed to coculture myoblast-derived muscle strips and motor neurons differentiated from mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) within a three-dimensional (3D) hydrogel. The device geometry mimics the spinal cord-limb physical separation by compartmentalizing the two cell types, which also facilitates the observation of 3D neurite outgrowth and remote muscle innervation. Moreover, the use of compliant pillars as anchors for muscle strips provides a quantitative functional readout of force generation. Finally, photosensitizing the ESC provides a pool of source cells that can be differentiated into optically excitable motor neurons, allowing for spatiodynamic, versatile, and noninvasive in vitro control of the motor units.

Concepts: Stem cell, Cellular differentiation, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Embryonic stem cell, Acetylcholine, Atrophy, Neuromuscular junction, Motor neuron


The ultimate goal of muscular dystrophy gene therapy is to treat all muscles in the body. Global gene delivery was demonstrated in dystrophic mice more than a decade ago using adeno-associated virus (AAV). However, translation to affected large mammals has been challenging. The only reported attempt was performed in newborn Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) dogs. Unfortunately, AAV injection resulted in growth delay, muscle atrophy and contracture. Here we report safe and bodywide AAV delivery in juvenile DMD dogs. Three ∼2-m-old affected dogs received intravenous injection of a tyrosine-engineered AAV-9 reporter or micro-dystrophin vector at the doses of 1.92 to 6.24 x 10(14) viral genome particles/kg under transient immune suppression. DMD dogs tolerated injection well and their growth was not altered. Hematology and blood biochemistry were unremarkable. No adverse reactions were observed. Widespread muscle transduction was seen in skeletal muscle, the diaphragm and heart for at least four months (the end of the study). Nominal expression was detected in internal organs. Improvement in muscle histology was observed in micro-dystrophin treated dogs. In summary, systemic AAV gene transfer is safe and efficient in young adult dystrophic large mammals. This may translate to bodywide gene therapy in pediatric patients in the future.

Concepts: Gene, Virus, Heart, Muscle, Muscle atrophy, Muscular dystrophy, Atrophy, Gene therapy