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Calcineurin differentially regulates fast myosin heavy chain genes in oxidative muscle fibre type conversion


In skeletal muscle, calcineurin is crucial for myocyte differentiation and in the determination of the slow oxidative fibre phenotype, both processes being important determinants of muscle performance, metabolic health and meat-animal production. Fibre type is defined by the isoform identity of the skeletal myosin heavy chain (MyHC). We have examined the responses of the major MyHC genes to calcineurin signalling during fibre formation of muscle C2C12 cells. We have found that calcineurin acts as a signal to up-regulate the fast-oxidative MyHC2a gene and to down-regulate the faster MyHC2x and MyHC2b genes in a manner that appears to be NFAT-independent. Contrary to expectation, the up-regulation of MyHCslow by calcineurin seems to be time-dependent and is only detectable once the initial differential expression of the post-natal fast MyHC genes has been established. The simultaneous elevated expression of MyHC2a and the repression of MyHC2x and MyHC2b expression indicate that both processes (elevation and repression) are actively coordinated during oxidative fibre conversion. We have further determined that muscle LIM protein (MLP), a calcineurin-binding Z-line co-factor, is induced by calcineurin and that its co-expression with calcineurin has an additive effect on MyHCslow expression. Hence, post-natal fast MyHCs are important early effector targets of calcineurin, whereas MyHCslow up-regulation is mediated in part by calcineurin-induced MLP.

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Correspondence to Kin-Chow Chang.

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This work was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and was carried out in collaboration with the company Genus.

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da Costa, N., Edgar, J., Ooi, P. et al. Calcineurin differentially regulates fast myosin heavy chain genes in oxidative muscle fibre type conversion. Cell Tissue Res 329, 515–527 (2007).

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  • Calcineurin
  • Myosin heavy chain
  • Fibre type
  • Oxidative
  • Muscle LIM protein
  • C2C12 cells