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Early Changes In Muscle Fiber Size And Gene Expression In Response To Spinal Cord Transection And Exercise

Esther E. Dupont-Versteegden, John D. Houlé, Cathy M. Gurley, Charlotte A. Peterson

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Muscles of spinal cord-transected rats exhibit severe atrophy and a shift toward a faster phenotype. Exercise can partially prevent these changes. The goal of this study was to investigate early events involved in regulating the muscle response to spinal transection and passive hindlimb exercise. Adult female Sprague-Dawley rats were anesthetized, and a complete spinal cord transection lesion (T10) was created in all rats except controls. Rats were killed 5 or 10 days after transection or they were exercised daily on motor-driven bicycles starting at 5 days after transection and were killed 0.5, 1, or 5 days after the first bout of exercise. Structural and biochemical features of soleus and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles were studied. Atrophy was decreased in all fiber types of soleus and in type 2a and type 2x fibers of EDL after 5 days of exercise. However, exercise did not appear to affect fiber type that was altered within 5 days of spinal cord transection: fibers expressing myosin heavy chain 2x increased in soleus and EDL, and extensive coexpression of myosin heavy chain in soleus was apparent. Activation of satellite cells was observed in both muscles of transected rats regardless of exercise status, evidenced by increased accumulation of MyoD and myogenin. Increased expression was transient, except for MyoD, which remained elevated in soleus. MyoD and myogenin were detected both in myofiber and in satellite cell nuclei in both muscles, but in soleus, MyoD was preferentially expressed in satellite cell nuclei, and in EDL, MyoD was more readily detectable in myofiber nuclei, suggesting that MyoD and myogenin have different functions in different muscles. Exercise did not affect the level or localization of MyoD and myogenin expression. Similarly, Id-1 expression was transiently increased in soleus and EDL upon spinal cord transection, and no effect of exercise was observed. These results indicate that passive exercise can ameliorate muscle atrophy after spinal cord transection and that satellite cell activation may play a role in muscle plasticity in response to spinal cord transection and exercise. Finally, the mechanisms underlying maintenance of muscle mass are likely distinct from those controlling myosin heavy chain expression.