Skeletal muscle differentiation evokes endogenous XIAP to restrict the apoptotic pathway

PLoS One. 2009;4(3):e5097. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005097. Epub 2009 Mar 31.


Myotube apoptosis occurs normally during muscle development and aging but it can lead to destruction of skeletal muscle in neuromuscular diseases. Therefore, understanding how myotube apoptosis is regulated is important for developing novel strategies for treatment of muscle loss. We investigated the regulation of apoptosis in skeletal muscle and report a striking increase in resistance to apoptosis following differentiation. We find mitotic C2C12 cells (myoblast-like cells) are sensitive to cytosolic cytochrome c microinjection. However, differentiated C2C12 cells (myotube-like cells) and primary myotubes are markedly resistant. This resistance is due to endogenous X-linked inhibitor of apoptotic protein (XIAP). Importantly, the selective difference in the ability of XIAP to block myotube but not myoblast apoptosis is not due to a change in XIAP but rather a decrease in Apaf-1 expression. This decrease in Apaf-1 links XIAP to caspase activation and death. Our findings suggest that in order for myotubes to die, they may degrade XIAP, functionally inactivate XIAP or upregulate Apaf-1. Importantly, we identify a role for endogenous Smac in overcoming XIAP to allow myotube death. However, in postmitotic cardiomyocytes, where XIAP also restricts apoptosis, endogenous Smac was not capable of overcoming XIAP to cause death. These results show that as skeletal muscle differentiate, they become resistant to apoptosis because of the ability of XIAP to regulate caspase activation. The increased restriction of apoptosis in myotubes is presumably important to ensure the long term survival of these postmitotic cells as they play a vital role in the physiology of organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Caspases / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Line
  • Mice
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology*
  • Up-Regulation
  • X-Linked Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein*


  • X-Linked Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein
  • Caspases