Stable atrogin-1 (Fbxo32) and MuRF1 (Trim63) gene expression is involved in the protective mechanism in soleus muscle of hibernating Daurian ground squirrels (Spermophilus dauricus).Biol Open 2016; 5(1):62-71BO
Understanding the mechanisms that protect against or limit muscle atrophy in hibernators during prolonged inactivity has important implications for its treatment. We examined whether external factors influence the pathways regulating protein synthesis and degradation, leading to muscle atrophy prevention in Daurian ground squirrels (Spermophilus dauricus). We investigated the effects of 14-day hindlimb-unloading (HU) in different seasons and two-month hibernation on the soleus (SOL) muscle wet mass, muscle-to-body mass ratio, fiber cross sectional area (CSA), fiber distribution and muscle ultrastructure. We also measured changes in the protein expression and activation states of Akt, mTOR and FoxO1 and the mRNA expression of atrogin-1 and MuRF1. Compared with the control groups, autumn and winter HU significantly lowered SOL muscle wet mass and muscle-to-body mass ratio, decreased type I and II fiber CSA and induced ultrastructural anomalies. However, these measured indices were unchanged between Pre-hibernation and Hibernation groups. Furthermore, phosphorylation levels of Akt and mTOR significantly decreased, while the phosphorylation level of FoxO1 and mRNA expression of atrogin-1 and MuRF1 increased after HU. During hibernation, the phosphorylation levels of Akt and mTOR significantly decreased, but the phosphorylation level of FoxO1 and mRNA expression of atrogin-1 and MuRF1 remained unchanged. Overall, our findings suggest that disuse and seasonality may not be sufficient to initiate the innate protective mechanism that prevents SOL atrophy during prolonged periods of hibernation inactivity. The stable expression of atrogin-1 and MuRF1 may facilitate to prevent SOL atrophy via controlling ubiquitination of muscle proteins during hibernation.