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Mechanisms of Muscle Injury, Repair, and Regeneration

  1. James G. Tidball1,2

Published Online: 1 OCT 2011

DOI: 10.1002/cphy.c100092

Comprehensive Physiology

Comprehensive Physiology

How to Cite

Tidball, J. G. 2011. Mechanisms of Muscle Injury, Repair, and Regeneration. Comprehensive Physiology. 1:2029–2062.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Molecular, Cellular & Integrative Physiology Program, University of California, Los Angeles, California

  2. 2

    Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, University of California, Los Angeles, California

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 OCT 2011


Skeletal muscle continuously adapts to changes in its mechanical environment through modifications in gene expression and protein stability that affect its physiological function and mass. However, mechanical stresses commonly exceed the parameters that induce adaptations, producing instead acute injury. Furthermore, the relatively superficial location of many muscles in the body leaves them further vulnerable to acute injuries by exposure to extreme temperatures, contusions, lacerations or toxins. In this article, the molecular, cellular, and mechanical factors that underlie muscle injury and the capacity of muscle to repair and regenerate are presented. Evidence shows that muscle injuries that are caused by eccentric contractions result from direct mechanical damage to myofibrils. However, muscle pathology following other acute injuries is largely attributable to damage to the muscle cell membrane. Many feaures in the injury-repair-regeneration cascade relate to the unregulated influx of calcium through membrane lesions, including: (i) activation of proteases and hydrolases that contribute muscle damage, (ii) activation of enzymes that drive the production of mitogens and motogens for muscle and immune cells involved in injury and repair, and (iii) enabling protein-protein interactions that promote membrane repair. Evidence is also presented to show that the myogenic program that is activated by acute muscle injury and the inflammatory process that follows are highly coordinated, with myeloid cells playing a central role in modulating repair and regeneration. The early-invading, proinflammatory M1 macrophages remove debris caused by injury and express Th1 cytokines that play key roles in regulating the proliferation, migration, and differentiation of satellite cells. The subsequent invasion by anti-inflammatory, M2 macrophages promotes tissue repair and attenuates inflammation. Although this system provides an effective mechanism for muscle repair and regeneration following acute injury, it is dysregulated in chronic injuries. In this article, the process of muscle injury, repair and regeneration that occurs in muscular dystrophy is used as an example of chronic muscle injury, to highlight similarities and differences between the injury and repair processes that occur in acutely and chronically injured muscle. © 2011 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 1:2029-2062, 2011.