Dexamethasone-treated L6 (a rat cell line) and C2C12 (a mouse cell line) myotubes are frequently used as in vitro models of muscle wasting. We compared the effects of different concentrations of dexamethasone and corticosterone (the naturally occurring glucocorticoid in rodents) on protein breakdown rates, myotube size, and atrogin-1 and MuRF1 mRNA levels in the two cell lines. In addition, the expression of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and its role in glucocorticoid-induced metabolic changes were determined. Treatment with dexamethasone or corticosterone resulted in dose-dependent increases in protein degradation rates in both L6 and C2C12 myotubes accompanied by 25-30% reduction of myotube diameter. The same treatments increased atrogin-1 mRNA levels in L6 and C2C12 myotubes but, surprisingly, upregulated the expression of MuRF1 in L6 myotubes only. Both cell types expressed the GR and treatment with dexamethasone or corticosterone downregulated total cellular GR levels while increasing nuclear translocation of the GR in both L6 and C2C12 myotubes. The GR antagonist RU38486 inhibited the dexamethasone- and corticosterone-induced increases in atrogin-1 and MuRF1 expression in L6 myotubes but not in C2C12 myotubes. Interestingly, RU38486 exerted agonist effects in the C2C12, but not in the L6 myotubes. The present results suggest that muscle wasting-related responses to dexamethasone and corticosterone are similar, but not identical, in L6 and C2C12 myotubes. Most notably, the regulation by glucocorticoids of MuRF1 and the role of the GR may be different in the two cell lines. These differences need to be taken into account when cultured myotubes are used in future studies to further explore mechanisms of muscle wasting.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.