Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation





First Advisor

Dr. John Joseph McCarthy


Adult skeletal muscle is highly plastic and responds readily to environmental stimuli. One of the most commonly utilized methods to study skeletal muscle adaptations is immunofluorescence microscopy. By analyzing images of adult muscle cells, also known as myofibers, one can quantify changes in skeletal muscle structure and function (e.g. hypertrophy and fiber type). Skeletal muscle samples are typically cut in transverse or cross sections, and antibodies against sarcolemmal or basal lamina proteins are used to label the myofiber boundaries.

The quantification of hundreds to thousands of myofibers per sample is accomplished either manually or semi-automatically using generalized pathology software, and such approaches become exceedingly tedious. In the first study, I developed MyoVision, a robust, fully automated software that is dedicated to skeletal muscle immunohistological image analysis. The software has been made freely available to muscle biologists to alleviate the burden of routine image analyses. To date, more than 60 technicians, students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, and others have requested this software.

Using MyoVision, I was able to accurately quantify the effects of β-catenin knockout on myofiber hypertrophy. In the second study, I tested the hypothesis that myofiber hypertrophy requires β-catenin to activate c-myc transcription and promote ribosome biogenesis. Recent evidence in both mice and human suggests a close association between ribosome biogenesis and skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Using an inducible mouse model of skeletal myofiber-specific genetic knockout, I obtained evidence that β-catenin is important for myofiber hypertrophy, although its role in ribosome biogenesis appears to be dispensable for mechanical overload induced muscle growth. Instead, β-catenin may be necessary for promoting the translation of growth related genes through activation of ribosomal protein S6.

Unexpectedly, we detected a novel, enhancing effect of myofiber β-catenin knockout on the resident muscle stem cells, or satellite cells. In the absence of myofiber β-catenin, satellite cells activate and proliferate earlier in response to mechanical overload. Consistent with the role of satellite cells in muscle repair, the enhanced recruitment of satellite cells led to a significantly improved regeneration response after chemical injury. The novelty of these findings resides in the fact that the genetic perturbation was extrinsic to the satellite cells, and this is even more surprising because the current literature focuses heavily on intrinsic mechanisms within satellite cells. As such, this model of myofiber β-catenin knockout may significantly contribute to better understanding of the mechanisms of satellite cell priming, with implications for regenerative medicine.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)