Gene expression during inactivity-induced muscle atrophy: Effects of brief bouts of a forceful contraction countermeasure

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Journal of applied physiology


Exercise Science


Anabolic and catabolic markers of muscle protein metabolism were examined in inactivity-induced atrophying muscles with and without daily short-duration, high-resistance isometric contractions. Inactivity was achieved via spinal cord isolation (SI), which results in near inactivity of the hindlimb musculature without compromising the motoneuron-muscle connectivity. Adult rats were assigned to a control (Con) or SI group in which one limb was stimulated (SI-Stim, 5 consecutive days of brief bouts of high-load isometric contractions) while the other served as a SI control (SI). Both the medial gastrocnemius (MG) and soleus weights (relative to body weight) were ?71% of Con in the SI, but maintained at Con in the SI-Stim group. Activity of the IGF-1/phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway of protein synthesis was similar among all groups in the MG. Expression of atrogin-1 and muscle RING finger-1 (MuRF-1), markers of protein degradation, were higher in the MG and soleus of the SI than Con and maintained at Con in the SI-Stim. Compared with Con, the anti-growth factor myostatin was unaffected in the MG and soleus in the SI but was lower in the MG of the SI-Stim. These results demonstrate that upregulation of specific protein catabolic pathways plays a critical role in SI-induced atrophy, while this response was blunted by 4 min of daily high-resistance electromechanical stimulation and was able to preserve most of the muscle mass. Although the protein anabolic pathway (IGF-1/PI3K/Akt) appears to play a minor role in regulating mass in the SI model, increased translational capacity may have contributed to mass preservation in response to isometric contractions.