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Sci. Signal., 16 February 2010
Vol. 3, Issue 109, p. ec50
[DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.3109ec50]

EDITORS' CHOICE

Physiology How Do Muscles Know to Grow?

Elizabeth M. Adler

Science Signaling, AAAS, Washington, DC 20005, USA

Exercise promotes muscle growth, whereas inactivity leads to muscle atrophy, a process that can be opposed by direct electrical stimulation. Noting that L-type Ca2+ channels have been implicated in activity-dependent changes in neuronal transcription, Piétri-Rouxel et al. explored the role of the {alpha}1S subunit of the muscle L-type Ca2+ channel [known as the dihydropyridine receptor (DHPR)] in linking muscle activity to muscle growth. Intramuscular injection of U7 snRNA chimeras designed to disrupt {alpha}1S pre-mRNA splicing (so as to skip exon 16 and thereby shift the mRNA reading frame) elicited a substantial decrease in unskipped {alpha}1S mRNA in mouse tibialis anterior muscle by 2 months after injection. A decrease in {alpha}1S protein was apparent 6 months after injection, as well as substantial loss of muscle mass, resulting from a decrease in fiber diameter, and increased fibrosis. Further analysis revealed that {alpha}1S knockdown led to a decrease in neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) abundance, accompanied by redistribution of nNOS from the sarcolemma to the cytoplasm, and translocation of the transcription factor FoxO3A to the nucleus (changes consistent with muscle atrophy secondary to inactivity). The {alpha}1S knockdown also led to increased abundance of the mRNA encoding genes associated with autophagy and elicited the appearance of autophagosomes. Muscle {alpha}1S functions as a Ca2+ channel along the transverse (T) tubules and as a voltage sensor for excitation-contraction coupling at the triad, with a minor fraction localized to the sarcolemma. The authors confirmed this distribution by three-dimensional confocal analysis of control flexor digitorum brevis muscle; intriguingly, however, {alpha}1S knockdown was specifically associated with loss of this minor sarcolemmal fraction. The authors thus propose that this sarcolemmal fraction of {alpha}1S may act as a sensor to couple muscle activity with its anabolic or catabolic state.

F. Piétri-Rouxel, C. Gentil, S. Vassilopoulos, D. Baas, E. Mouisel, A. Ferry, A. Vignaud, C. Hourdé, I. Marty, L. Schaeffer, T. Voit, L. Garcia, DHPR {alpha}1S subunit controls skeletal muscle mass and morphogenesis. EMBO J. 29, 643–654 (2010). [PubMed]

Citation: E. M. Adler, How Do Muscles Know to Grow? Sci. Signal. 3, ec50 (2010).



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