Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neuromuscular disease involving motor neuron death, paralysis and, ultimately, respiratory failure. Motor neuron dysfunction leads to target skeletal muscle atrophy involving dysregulation of downstream cell survival, growth and metabolic signaling. Decreased Akt activity is linked to muscle atrophy in ALS and is associated with increased atrophy gene expression. Unfortunately, the regulating mechanism of Akt activity in atrophic muscle remains unclear. Recent research indicates a role of carboxyl-terminal modulator protein (CTMP) in Akt-signaling related neurologic dysfunction and skeletal muscle metabolism. CTMP is known to bind and reduce Akt phosphorylation and activation. We hypothesized that CTMP expression might progressively increase in ALS skeletal muscle as the disease progresses, downregulating Akt activity. We found that CTMP protein expression significantly increased in hindlimb skeletal muscle in the mSOD1 G93A mouse model of ALS in late stages of the disease (P < 0.05), which negatively correlated with Akt phosphorylation over this period (R 2 = −0.77). Co-immunoprecipitation of Akt revealed CTMP binding in pre-symptomatic and end-stage skeletal muscle, suggesting a possible direct role in reduced Akt signaling during disease progression. Inflammatory TNFα and downstream cellular degradation process markers for autophagy, lysosome production, and atrophy significantly increased in a pattern corresponding to increased CTMP expression and reduced Akt phosphorylation. In an in vitro model of skeletal muscle atrophy, differentiated C2C12 cells exhibited reduced Akt activity and decreased FOXO1 phosphorylation, a process known to promote transcription of atrophy genes in skeletal muscle. These results corresponded with increased Atrogin-1 expression compared to healthy control cells (P < 0.05). Transfection with CTMP siRNA significantly increased Akt phosphorylation in atrophic C2C12 cells, corresponding to significantly decreased CTMP expression. In conclusion, this is the first study to provide evidence for a link between elevated CTMP expression, downregulated Akt phosphorylation and muscle atrophy in ALS and clearly demonstrates a direct influence of CTMP on Akt phosphorylation in an in vitro muscle cell atrophy model.
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