Stress and signaling responses of rat skeletal muscle to brief endurance exercise during hindlimb unloading: a catch-up process for atrophied muscle

Cell Physiol Biochem. 2009;24(5-6):537-46. doi: 10.1159/000257510. Epub 2009 Nov 4.


At times, exercise accompanied by its anabolic effects is not a tractable countermeasure to muscle atrophy. Instead, training is often attempted after the affected muscle has atrophied greatly as a result of unloading. This study was designed to elucidate stress and signaling mechanisms underlying a process of muscle catch-up growth as a result of transitory exercise during unloading. Rats were exercised daily with a routine of 20- or 40-minute treadmill running (at 60% of maximum oxygen uptake) during the second week of a two-week hindlimb suspension. We examined the expression and activation of heat shock proteins and anabolic and proteolytic markers in the rat soleus muscle. Muscle mass relative to body mass decreased 2.4-fold in the unloaded group (HU) with respect to controls but decreased only 1.7-fold in the 40-min trained group (HT40) (P < 0.05) - equivalent to a 1.4-fold increase in the relative muscle mass over HU. Immunoblotting analyses on whole-tissue lysates demonstrated the following: (1) HSP72 and alphaB-crystallin were upregulated 7- and 2.5-fold, respectively, in HT40 versus HU; (2) phosphorylation of Akt1 and p70/S6K decreased only slightly in HU; (3) when compared to HU, HT40 phosphorylation of Akt1, S6K, and FoxO1 increased 1.4- to 3.0-fold while phosphorylation of FoxO3 was unchanged; and (4) activities of the ubiquitin E3 ligases, calpain 1 and caspase-3 increased 2- to 4-fold in the unloaded groups regardless of exercise duration. These results suggest that the significant upregulation of chaperones and anabolic markers (e.g., HSP72, p-Akt1, p-S6K) in HT40, along with the lack of the training effect on proteolytic activity, is likely crucial for muscle mass catch-up in the unloaded muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calpain / metabolism
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Hindlimb Suspension
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / metabolism*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / metabolism


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Foxo1 protein, rat
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases
  • Rps6kb1 protein, rat
  • Calpain
  • Caspase 3