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Objective

Myositis is characterized by severe muscle weakness. We and others have previously shown that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress plays a role in the pathogenesis of myositis. The present study was undertaken to identify perturbed pathways and assess their contribution to muscle disease in a mouse myositis model.

Methods

Stable isotope labeling with amino acids in cell culture (SILAC) was used to identify alterations in the skeletal muscle proteome of myositic mice in vivo. Differentially altered protein levels identified in the initial comparisons were validated using a liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry spike-in strategy and further confirmed by immunoblotting. In addition, we evaluated the effect of a proteasome inhibitor, bortezomib, on the disease phenotype, using well-standardized functional, histologic, and biochemical assessments.

Results

With the SILAC technique we identified significant alterations in levels of proteins belonging to the ER stress response, ubiquitin proteasome pathway (UPP), oxidative phosphorylation, glycolysis, cytoskeleton, and muscle contractile apparatus categories. We validated the myositis-related changes in the UPP and demonstrated a significant increase in the ubiquitination of muscle proteins as well as a specific increase in ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal hydrolase isozyme L1 (UCHL-1) in myositis, but not in muscle affected by other dystrophies or normal muscle. Inhibition of the UPP with bortezomib significantly improved muscle function and also significantly reduced tumor necrosis factor α expression in the skeletal muscle of mice with myositis.

Conclusion

Our findings indicate that ER stress activates downstream UPPs and contributes to muscle degeneration and that UCHL-1 is a potential biomarker for disease progression. UPP inhibition offers a potential therapeutic strategy for myositis.