AMP-activated protein kinase agonists increase mRNA content of the muscle-specific ubiquitin ligases MAFbx and MuRF1 in C2C12 cells

Brian J. Krawiec, Gerald J. Nystrom, Robert A. Frost, Leonard S. Jefferson, Charles H. Lang

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114 Scopus citations


The hypothesis of the present study was that exposure of differentiated muscle cells to agonists of the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) would increase the mRNA content of the muscle-specific ubiquitin ligases muscle atrophy F-box (MAFbx) and muscle RING finger 1 (MuRF1). C2C 12 cells were incubated with incremental doses of 5-aminoimidazol-4-carboximide ribonucleoside (AICAR) or metformin for 24 h. Both MAFbx and MuRF1 mRNA increased dose dependently in response to these AMPK activators. AICAR, metformin, and 2-deoxy-D-glucose produced time-dependent alterations in ubiquitin ligase expression, typified by a biphasic pattern of expression marked by an acute repression followed by a sustained induction. AMPK-activating treatments in conjunction with dexamethasone produced a pronounced synergistic effect on ligase mRNA expression at later time points. This cooperative response occurred in the absence of a dexamethasone-dependent increase in AMPK expression or activity, as determined by immunoblotting for phosphorylation and expression of AMPKα and its downstream target acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC). These responses elicited by AMPK activation singly or in combination with dexamethasone did not extend to the mRNA expression of the UBR box family E3s UBR1/E3αI and UBR2/E3αII. Treatment with the AMPK inhibitor compound C prevented increases in MAFbx and MuRF1 mRNA in response to serum deprivation, as well as AICAR and dexamethasone treatment individually or jointly. Stimulation of AMPK activity in vivo via AICAR injection increased both MAFbx and MuRF1 mRNA in murine skeletal muscle. These data suggest that activation of AMPK in skeletal muscle results in a specific upregulation of MAFbx and MuRF1, responses that are reminiscent of the proposed atrophic transcriptional program executed under various conditions of skeletal muscle wasting. Therefore, AMPK may be a critical component of the intercalated network of signaling pathways governing skeletal muscle atrophy, where its input acts to modify anti- and proatrophic signals to influence gene expression in reaction to catabolic perturbations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1555-E1567
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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