Akt-mediated phosphorylation controls the activity of the Y-box protein MSY3 in skeletal muscle

Luciana De Angelis, Sreeram Balasubramanian, Libera Berghella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The Y-box protein MSY3/Csda represses myogenin transcription in skeletal muscle by binding a highly conserved cis-acting DNA element located just upstream of the myogenin minimal promoter (myogHCE). It is not known how this MSY3 activity is controlled in skeletal muscle. In this study, we provide multiple lines of evidence showing that the post-translational phosphorylation of MSY3 by Akt kinase modulates the MSY3 repression of myogenin. Methods: Skeletal muscle and myogenic C2C12 cells were used to study the effects of MSY3 phosphorylation in vivo and in vitro on its sub-cellular localization and activity, by blocking the IGF1/PI3K/Akt pathway, by Akt depletion and over-expression, and by mutating potential MSY3 phosphorylation sites. Results: We observed that, as skeletal muscle progressed from perinatal to postnatal and adult developmental stages, MSY3 protein became gradually dephosphorylated and accumulated in the nucleus. This correlated well with the reduction of phosphorylated active Akt. In C2C12 myogenic cells, blocking the IGF1/PI3K/Akt pathway using LY294002 inhibitor reduced MSY3 phosphorylation levels resulting in its accumulation in the nuclei. Knocking down Akt expression increased the amount of dephosphorylated MSY3 and reduced myogenin expression and muscle differentiation. MSY3 phosphorylation by Akt in vitro impaired its binding at the MyogHCE element, while blocking Akt increased MSY3 binding activity. While Akt over-expression rescued myogenin expression in MSY3 overexpressing myogenic cells, ablation of the Akt substrate, (Ser126 located in the MSY3 cold shock domain) promoted MSY3 accumulation in the nucleus and abolished this rescue. Furthermore, forced expression of Akt in adult skeletal muscle induced MSY3 phosphorylation and myogenin derepression. Conclusions: These results support the hypothesis that MSY3 phosphorylation by Akt interferes with MSY3 repression of myogenin circuit activity during muscle development. This study highlights a previously undescribed Akt-mediated signaling pathway involved in the repression of myogenin expression in myogenic cells and in mature muscle. Given the significance of myogenin regulation in adult muscle, the Akt/MSY3/myogenin regulatory circuit is a potential therapeutic target to counteract muscle degenerative disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
JournalSkeletal Muscle
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 29 2015


  • Akt
  • Csda
  • MSY3
  • Muscle differentiation
  • Myogenin
  • Postnatal muscle
  • Transcription factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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