Myostatin induces cachexia by activating the ubiquitin proteolytic system through an NF-κB-independent, FoxO1-dependent mechanism


  • Craig McFarlane and Erin Plummer contributed equally to the manuscript.


Myostatin, a transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) super-family member, has been well characterized as a negative regulator of muscle growth and development. Myostatin has been implicated in several forms of muscle wasting including the severe cachexia observed as a result of conditions such as AIDS and liver cirrhosis. Here we show that Myostatin induces cachexia by a mechanism independent of NF-κB. Myostatin treatment resulted in a reduction in both myotube number and size in vitro, as well as a loss in body mass in vivo. Furthermore, the expression of the myogenic genes myoD and pax3 was reduced, while NF-κB (the p65 subunit) localization and expression remained unchanged. In addition, promoter analysis has confirmed Myostatin inhibition of myoD and pax3. An increase in the expression of genes involved in ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis is observed during many forms of muscle wasting. Hence we analyzed the effect of Myostatin treatment on proteolytic gene expression. The ubiquitin associated genes atrogin-1, MuRF-1, and E214k were upregulated following Myostatin treatment. We analyzed how Myostatin may be signaling to induce cachexia. Myostatin signaling reversed the IGF-1/PI3K/AKT hypertrophy pathway by inhibiting AKT phosphorylation thereby increasing the levels of active FoxO1, allowing for increased expression of atrophy-related genes. Therefore, our results suggest that Myostatin induces cachexia through an NF-κB-independent mechanism. Furthermore, increased Myostatin levels appear to antagonize hypertrophy signaling through regulation of the AKT-FoxO1 pathway. J. Cell. Physiol. 209: 501–514, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.