To evaluate whether catabolic levels of glucocorticoids activate the ubiquitin pathway in conjunction with their known proteolytic effect in skeletal muscle, rats were injected daily with corticosterone (CTC; 10 mg/100 g body wt) for 7 days. Two peaks of urinary excretion of 3-methylhistidine (3-MH), a specific marker of myofibrillar proteolysis, were observed at days 1 and 3 (165 and 295% of controls, respectively). Levels of ubiquitin pathway mRNAs in skeletal muscle were assessed around the 3-MH peaks. In the extensor digitorum longus, a first rise of two polyubiquitin (pUb) mRNAs was seen at day 1 (183 and 162% of control for the UbB and UbC transcripts, respectively, P < 0.01). An accumulation of both E2-14k mRNAs (140%, P < 0.02, and 157% of controls, P < 0.01) and proteasome C8 subunit mRNA (222% of control, P < 0.05) was seen at day 2. A second more important peak of induction of pUb mRNA was seen at day 3 (251 and 217% of controls for the UbB and UbC transcripts, respectively, P< 0.001). All transcripts returned to near control levels by day 4. In the soleus, induction of E2-14k mRNA started at day 3 and reached 216 and 208% of controls at day 4 (P < 0.001), whereas an increase of pUb mRNA was observed at days 3 (213 and 241%, P < 0.05) and 4 (211 and 221%, P < 0.001). A rise of proteasome C8 subunit mRNA accumulation was also seen in the soleus at days 3 (217%, P< 0.05) and 4 (157%, P < 0.05). Reduced ubiquitin conjugate levels, possibly due to their rapid degradation through increased proteasome activity, were observed in both muscle types at day 3. The parallel between the catabolic effects of CTC and activation of the ubiquitin pathway in muscles of CTC-treated rats strongly suggests the involvement of this system in glucocorticoid-induced muscular atrophy.
- Copyright © 1997 the American Physiological Society