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Disease models & mechanisms

The role of mTOR signaling in the regulation of protein synthesis and muscle mass during immobilization in mice.


PMID 26092121

Abstract

The maintenance of skeletal muscle mass contributes substantially to health and to issues associated with the quality of life. It has been well recognized that skeletal muscle mass is regulated by mechanically induced changes in protein synthesis, and that signaling by mTOR is necessary for an increase in protein synthesis and the hypertrophy that occurs in response to increased mechanical loading. However, the role of mTOR signaling in the regulation of protein synthesis and muscle mass during decreased mechanical loading remains largely undefined. In order to define the role of mTOR signaling, we employed a mouse model of hindlimb immobilization along with pharmacological, mechanical and genetic means to modulate mTOR signaling. The results first showed that immobilization induced a decrease in the global rates of protein synthesis and muscle mass. Interestingly, immobilization also induced an increase in mTOR signaling, eIF4F complex formation and cap-dependent translation. Blocking mTOR signaling during immobilization with rapamycin not only impaired the increase in eIF4F complex formation, but also augmented the decreases in global protein synthesis and muscle mass. On the other hand, stimulating immobilized muscles with isometric contractions enhanced mTOR signaling and rescued the immobilization-induced decrease in global protein synthesis through a rapamycin-sensitive mechanism that was independent of ribosome biogenesis. Unexpectedly, the effects of isometric contractions were also independent of eIF4F complex formation. Similar to isometric contractions, overexpression of Rheb in immobilized muscles enhanced mTOR signaling, cap-dependent translation and global protein synthesis, and prevented the reduction in fiber size. Therefore, we conclude that the activation of mTOR signaling is both necessary and sufficient to alleviate the decreases in protein synthesis and muscle mass that occur during immobilization. Furthermore, these results indicate that the activation of mTOR signaling is a viable target for therapies that are aimed at preventing muscle atrophy during periods of mechanical unloading.