MyoD, myogenin, myf-5, and MRF4, belonging to the family of basic helix- loop-helix (bHLH) myogenic regulatory factors (MRFs), control muscle cell differentiation, in concert with other transcription factors such as MEF-2, yet their role in age-related skeletal muscle alteration has not been addressed. We here report that MyoD and myogenin transcripts are expressed at high levels in the hind limb muscles of newborn mice and their level of expression continuously declines throughout postnatal life to become virtually undetectable in the adult mouse. However, these transcripts are again expressed at high levels in the muscles of older mice. MRF4 transcript, on the other hand, is present at a constant level throughout the life span of the animal. Conversely, the expressions of myf-5 and MEF-2C, components of the autoregulatory loop for the activation of bHLH gene expression, conspicuously increase in adult and senile muscle. In order to establish whether these transcripts are functioning in the aged muscle we investigated the expression of bHLH inhibitory factor Id mRNA showing that it does not present significant changes during aging. Immunofluorescence analysis with an anti-myogenin antibody revealed nuclear accumulation of the protein in the muscle fibers of old, but not of adult, mice. Muscle-specific genes transactivated by MyoD and myogenin such as AChR, MLC, and MCK are also up- regulated during aging, albeit at a lower level. Significant changes in the size and ratio of type I/type II fibers are detectable in senile muscle. These findings show that all members of the MRF family are expressed to a high extent and are likely active in senile muscle. It is conceivable that these changes might operate as a compensatory mechanism in maintaining the expression of differentiated muscle products in senile muscle at a steady- state level.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology