The p97/VCP ATPase is critical in muscle atrophy and the accelerated degradation of muscle proteins

Rosanna Piccirillo, Alfred L. Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The p97/VCP ATPase complex facilitates the extraction and degradation of ubiquitinated proteins from larger structures. We therefore studied if p97 participates to the rapid degradation of myofibrillar proteins during muscle atrophy. Electroporation of a dominant negative p97 (DNp97), but not the WT, into mouse muscle reduced fibre atrophy caused by denervation and food deprivation. DNp97 (acting as a substrate-trap) became associated with specific myofibrillar proteins and its cofactors, Ufd1 and p47, and caused accumulation of ubiquitinated components of thin and thick filaments, which suggests a role for p97 in extracting ubiquitinated proteins from myofibrils. DNp97 expression in myotubes reduced overall proteolysis by proteasomes and lysosomes and blocked the accelerated proteolysis induced by FoxO3, which is essential for atrophy. Expression of p97, Ufd1 and p47 increases following denervation, at times when myofibrils are rapidly degraded. Surprisingly, p97 inhibition, though toxic to most cells, caused rapid growth of myotubes (without enhancing protein synthesis) and hypertrophy of adult muscles. Thus, p97 restrains post-natal muscle growth, and during atrophy, is essential for the accelerated degradation of most muscle proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3334-3350
Number of pages17
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2012


  • atrophy
  • muscle growth
  • muscle proteolysis
  • myofibrillar proteins
  • p97/VCP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)


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