Regulation of muscle atrophy by microRNAs: ‘AtromiRs’ as potential target in cachexia

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Abstract

Purpose of review

To provide an overview and describe the mode of action of miRNAs recently implicated in muscle atrophy, and discuss the challenges to explore their potential as putative therapeutic targets in cachexia.

Recent findings

Recent work showed differentially expressed miRNAs in skeletal muscle of patients with cachexia-associated diseases. Studies using experimental models revealed miRNA regulation of the anabolic IGF-1 and catabolic TGF- β/myostatin pathways, and downstream protein synthesis and proteolysis signaling in control of muscle mass.

Summary

Cachexia is a complex metabolic condition associated with progressive body weight loss, wasting of skeletal muscle mass and decrease in muscle strength. MiRNAs play a central role in post-transcriptional gene regulation by targeting mRNAs, thereby coordinating and fine-tuning many cellular processes. MiRNA expression profiling studies of muscle biopsies have revealed differentially expressed miRNAs in patients with low muscle mass or cachexia. Evaluation in experimental models has revealed muscle atrophy, inhibition of protein synthesis and activation of proteolysis in response to modulation of specific miRNAs, termed ‘atromiRs’ in this review. These exciting findings call for further studies aimed at exploring the conservation of differentially expressed miRNAs across diseases accompanied by cachexia, identification of miRNA clusters and targets involved in muscle atrophy, and probing whether these miRNAs might be potential therapeutic targets for cachexia.

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