Myostatin regulation of muscle development: Molecular basis, natural mutations, physiopathological aspects

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Since its identification in 1997, myostatin has been considered as a novel and unique negative regulator of muscle growth, as mstn−/− mice display a dramatic and widespread increase in skeletal muscle mass. Myostatin also appears to be involved in muscle homeostasis in adults as its expression is regulated during muscle atrophy. Moreover, deletion of the myostatin gene seems to affect adipose tissue mass in addition to skeletal muscle mass. Natural myostatin gene mutations occur in cattle breeds such as Belgian Blue, exhibiting an obviously increased muscle mass, but also in humans, as has recently been demonstrated. Here we review these natural mutations and their associated phenotypes as well as the physiological influence of the alterations in myostatin expression and the physiopathological consequences of changes in myostatin expression, especially with regard to satellite cells. Interestingly, studies have demonstrated some rescue effects of myostatin in muscular pathologies such as myopathies, providing a novel pharmacological strategy for treatment. Furthermore, the myostatin pathway is now better understood thanks to in vitro studies and it consists of inhibition of myoblast progression in the cell cycle, inhibition of myoblast terminal differentiation, in both cases associated to protection from apoptosis. The molecular pathway driving the myogenic myostatin influence is currently under extensive study and many molecular partners of myostatin have been identified, suggesting novel potent muscle growth enhancers for both human and agricultural applications.

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