Overweight in elderly people induces impaired autophagy in skeletal muscle

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Abstract

Sarcopenia is the gradual loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength and quality associated with aging. Changes in body composition, especially in skeletal muscle and fat mass are crucial steps in the development of chronic diseases. We studied the effect of overweight on skeletal muscle tissue in elderly people without reaching obesity to prevent this extreme situation. Overweight induces a progressive protein breakdown reflected as a progressive withdrawal of anabolism against the promoted catabolic state leading to muscle wasting. Protein turnover is regulated by a network of signaling pathways. Muscle damage derived from overweight displayed by oxidative and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress induces inflammation and insulin resistance and forces the muscle to increase requirements from autophagy mechanisms. Our findings showed that failure of autophagy in the elderly deprives it to deal with the cell damage caused by overweight. This insufficiently efficient autophagy leads to an accumulation of p62 and NBR1, which are robust markers of protein aggregations. This impaired autophagy affects myogenesis activity. Depletion of myogenic regulatory factors (MRFs) without links to variations in myostatin levels in overweight patients suggest a possible reduction of satellite cells in muscle tissue, which contributes to declined muscle quality. This discovery has important implications that improve the understanding of aged-related atrophy caused by overweight and demonstrates how impaired autophagy is one of the main responsible mechanisms that aggravate muscle wasting. Therefore, autophagy could be an interesting target for therapeutic interventions in humans against muscle impairment diseases.

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