BACKGROUND: Skeletal muscle wasting is a devastating complication of several physiological and pathophysiological conditions. Inflammatory cytokines play an important role in the loss of skeletal muscle mass in various chronic diseases. We have recently reported that proinflammatory cytokine TWEAK is a major muscle-wasting cytokine. Emerging evidence suggests that gene expression is regulated not only at transcriptional level but also at post-transcriptional level through the expression of specific non-coding microRNAs (miRs) which can affect the stability and/or translation of target mRNA. However, the role of miRs in skeletal muscle wasting is unknown.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: To understand the mechanism of action of TWEAK in skeletal muscle, we performed mRNA and miRs expression profile of control and TWEAK-treated myotubes. TWEAK increased the expression of a number of genes involved in inflammatory response and fibrosis and reduced the expression of few cytoskeletal gene (e.g. Myh4, Ankrd2, and TCap) and metabolic enzymes (e.g. Pgam2). Low density miR array demonstrated that TWEAK inhibits the expression of several miRs including muscle-specific miR-1-1, miR-1-2, miR-133a, miR-133b and miR-206. The expression of a few miRs including miR-146a and miR-455 was found to be significantly increased in response to TWEAK treatment. Ingenuity pathway analysis showed that several genes affected by TWEAK are known/putative targets of miRs. Our cDNA microarray data are consistent with miRs profiling. The levels of specific mRNAs and miRs were also found to be similarly regulated in atrophying skeletal muscle of transgenic mice (Tg) mice expressing TWEAK.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Our results suggest that TWEAK affects the expression of several genes and microRNAs involved in inflammatory response, fibrosis, extracellular matrix remodeling, and proteolytic degradation which might be responsible for TWEAK-induced skeletal muscle loss.

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Published in PLoS ONE, v. 5, no. 1, e8760.

© 2010 Panguluri et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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