The expression, regulation and function of mammalian Hippo pathway members in skeletal muscle is largely unknown. The aim of this study was thus to test the hypothesis that core members of the mammalian Hippo pathway are expressed in skeletal muscle and that the transcriptional co-factor Yap, a core member of the Hippo pathway, regulates C2C12 myogenesis. We found that the major components of the mammalian Hippo pathway including Yap are all expressed in skeletal muscles, C2C12 myoblasts and myotubes. In C2C12 myoblasts, Yap Ser127 phosphorylation is low and Yap localises to nuclei. Upon differentiation, Yap Ser127 phosphorylation increases approximately 20-fold and Yap translocates from the nucleus to the cytosol. To test whether the observed increase of Yap Ser127 phosphorylation is required for differentiation we overexpressed hYAP1 S127A, a mutant that can not be phosphorylated at Ser127, in C2C12 myoblasts. We found that overexpression of hYAP S127A prevented myotube formation, whereas the overexpression of wildtype hYAP1 or empty vector had no effect. In addition, more hYAP1 S127A overexpressing cells progressed through the S phase of the cell cycle and the expression of MRFs (myogenin, Myf5), Mef2c and cell cycle regulators (p21, cyclin D1) was significantly changed when compared to wildtype hYAP1 and empty vector overexpressing cells. This data suggests that the phosphorylation of Yap at Ser127 leads to a changed expression of MRFs and cell cycle regulators and is required for C2C12 myoblasts to differentiate into myotubes.
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