The role of apoptosis in age-related skeletal muscle atrophy

Sports Med. 2005;35(6):473-83. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200535060-00002.


Skeletal myocyte atrophy and death contribute to sarcopenia, a condition associated with normal aging. By 80 years of age, it is estimated that humans generally lose 30-40% of skeletal muscle fibres. The mechanism for this loss is unknown; however, it may involve apoptosis. Mitochondrial dysfunction and sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) stress that occurs with age may be possible stimuli inducing apoptosis. Hence, mitochondria and SR may be important organelles within skeletal myocytes responsible for apoptosis signalling. The activation of apoptosis may be partly responsible for the initiation of muscle protein degradation, loss of muscle nuclei associated with local atrophy, and cell death of the myocyte. Exercise training and caloric restriction are two interventions known to enhance skeletal muscle function. The effects of these interventions on apoptosis are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Atrophy / etiology*
  • Atrophy / therapy
  • Energy Intake
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Sarcoplasmic Reticulum
  • United States