Apoptosis in muscle atrophy: relevance to sarcopenia

Exp Gerontol. 2005 Jun;40(6):473-81. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2005.04.003.


The loss of muscle mass with aging, or sarcopenia, is an important contributor to the functional decline and loss of independence observed with aging. Little is known about the role of apoptosis in sarcopenia. Studies in adult animals have shown that apoptosis is involved in the loss of muscle nuclei during acute disuse atrophy, and caspase-3 dependent pathways play an important role in this process. Elevated apoptosis has also been observed in muscles of aged animals, but this does not depend upon caspase-3 pathways to the same extent as disuse atrophy. Moreover, disuse atrophy induced in aged animals is associated with a higher amount of apoptosis than in young and intracellular mechanisms are different from those in young, depending more on caspase-independent pathways. The functional relevance of the increase in apoptosis with respect to the loss of muscle fibers and muscle cross-sectional area with aging remains to be determined and interventions to decrease apoptosis in muscle need to be evaluated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Nucleus / physiology
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mitosis / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / physiopathology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases