Bax signaling regulates palmitate-mediated apoptosis in C2C 12 myotubes

Jonathan M. Peterson, Yan Wang, Randall W. Bryner, David L. Williamson, Stephen E. Alway

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34 Scopus citations


Insulin resistance is a primary characteristic of type 2 diabetes. Several lines of evidence suggest that accumulation of free fatty acids in skeletal muscle may at least in part contribute to insulin resistance and may be linked to mitochondrial dysfunction, leading to apoptosis. Palmitate treatment of several cell lines in vitro results in apoptosis and inhibits protein kinase B (Akt) activity in response to insulin. However, the role of Bax and Bcl-2 in regulating palmitate-induced apoptosis has not been well studied. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine whether palmitate-induced apoptosis in C2C12 myotubes is dependent on Bax to Bcl-2 binding. An additional purpose of this study was to determine whether the changes in Bax to Bcl-2 binding corresponded to decreases in Akt signaling in palmitate-treated myoblasts. Apoptotic signaling proteins were examined in C2C 12 myotubes treated overnight with palmitate. Bax to Bcl-2 binding was determined through a coimmunoprecipitation assay that was performed in myotubes after 2 h of serum starvation, followed by 10 min of serum reintroduction. This experiment evaluated whether temporal Akt activity coincided with Bax to Bcl-2 binding. Last, the contribution of Bax to palmitate-induced apoptosis was determined by treatment with Bax siRNA. Palmitate treatment increased apoptosis in C2C12 myotubes as shown by a twofold increase in DNA fragmentation, an approximately fivefold increase in caspase-3 activity, and a 2.5-fold increase in caspase-9 activity. Palmitate treatment significantly reduced Akt protein expression and Akt activity. In addition, there was a fourfold reduction in Bax to Bcl-2 binding with palmitate treatment, which mirrored the reduction in AktSer473 phosphorylation. Furthermore, treatment of the C2C12 myotubes with Bax siRNA attenuated the apoptotic effects of palmitate treatment. These data show that palmitate induces Bax-mediated apoptosis in C 2C12 myotubes and that this effect corresponds to reductions in AktSer473 phosphorylation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1307-E1314
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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