Calpain 3 participates in sarcomere remodeling by acting upstream of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway

Hum Mol Genet. 2005 Aug 1;14(15):2125-34. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddi217. Epub 2005 Jun 16.


Mutations in the non-lysosomal cysteine protease calpain 3 cause limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2A (LGMD2A). Our previous studies of the calpain 3 knockout mouse (C3KO) suggested a role for calpain 3 in sarcomere formation and remodeling. Calpain 3 may mediate remodeling by cleavage and release of myofibrillar proteins, targeting them for ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. Loss of proper protein turnover may be the basis for this muscle disease. To test this hypothesis in vivo, we used an experimental model of hindlimb unloading and reloading that has been shown to induce sarcomere remodeling. We showed that the rate of atrophy and especially the rate of growth are decreased in C3KO muscles under conditions promoting sarcomere remodeling. In wild-type mice, an elevated level of ubiquitinated proteins was observed during muscle reloading, which is presumably necessary to remove atrophy-specific and damaged proteins. This increase in ubiquitination correlated with an increase in calpain 3 expression. C3KO muscles did not show any increase in ubiquitination at the reloading stage, suggesting that calpain 3 is necessary for ubiquitination and that it acts upstream of the ubiquitination machinery. We found upregulation of heat shock proteins in C3KO muscles following challenge with a physiological condition that requires highly increased protein degradation. Furthermore, old C3KO mice show evidence of insoluble protein aggregate formation in skeletal muscles. These studies suggest that accumulation of aged and damaged proteins can lead to cellular toxicity and a cell stress response in C3KO muscles, and that these characteristics are pathological features of LGMD2A.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calpain / genetics
  • Calpain / metabolism*
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Down-Regulation
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Hindlimb Suspension
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism
  • Muscle Proteins / genetics
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Muscular Dystrophies, Limb-Girdle / genetics
  • Muscular Dystrophies, Limb-Girdle / metabolism
  • Muscular Dystrophies, Limb-Girdle / pathology
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism*
  • Sarcomeres / genetics*
  • Sarcomeres / metabolism
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism*


  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Ubiquitin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Pik3cd protein, mouse
  • Calpain
  • Capn3 protein, mouse
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex