Forty-eight hours of unloading and 24 h of reloading lead to changes in global gene expression patterns related to ubiquitination and oxidative stress in humans

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2010 Nov;109(5):1404-15. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00444.2010. Epub 2010 Aug 26.


Although short-term disuse does not result in measurable muscle atrophy, studies suggest that molecular changes associated with protein degradation may be initiated within days of the onset of a disuse stimulus. We examined the global gene expression patterns in sedentary men (n = 7, mean age ± SD = 22.1 ± 3.7 yr) following 48 h unloading (UL) via unilateral lower limb suspension and 24 h reloading (RL). Biopsy samples of the left vastus lateralis muscle were collected at baseline, 48 h UL, and 24 h RL. Expression changes were measured by microarray and gene clustering; identification of enriched functions and canonical pathways were performed using the Database for Annotation, Visualization and Integrated Discovery (DAVID) and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA). Four genes were validated with quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR), and protein levels were measured with Western blot. Of the upregulated genes after UL, the most enriched functional group and highest ranked canonical pathway were related to protein ubiquitination. The oxidative stress response pathway was the second highest ranked canonical pathway. Of the downregulated genes, functions related to mitochondrial metabolism were the most highly enriched. In general, gene expression patterns following UL persisted following RL. qRT-PCR confirmed increases in mRNA for ubiquitin proteasome pathway-related E3 ligase Atrogin1 (but not accompanying increases in protein products) and stress response gene heme oxygenase-1 (HMOX, which showed a trend toward increases in protein products at 48 h UL) as well as extracellular matrix (ECM) component COL4A3. The gene expression patterns were not reversed on RL, suggesting that molecular responses to short-term periods of skeletal muscle inactivity may persist after activity resumes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Proteins / genetics*
  • Muscular Atrophy / genetics*
  • Muscular Atrophy / pathology
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Oxidative Stress* / genetics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational* / drug effects
  • Quadriceps Muscle / metabolism*
  • Quadriceps Muscle / pathology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Time Factors
  • Ubiquitination
  • Weightlessness Simulation*
  • Young Adult


  • Muscle Proteins