Introduction: Sarcopenia is considered to be an enormous burden for both the individuals affected and for society at large. A multifactorial aetiology of this geriatric syndrome has been discussed. Amongst other pathomechanisms, the degeneration of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) may be of major relevance. The intact balance between the pro-synaptic agent agrin and the anti-synaptic agent neurotrypsin ensures a structurally and functionally intact NMJ. Excessive cleavage of the native motoneuron-derived agrin by neurotrypsin into a C-terminal Agrin Fragment (CAF) leads to functional disintegration at the NMJ and may consecutively cause sarcopenia. The present study evaluates the hypothesis that CAF serum concentration is a potential marker for the loss of appendicular lean mass in older adults. It also explores how CAF concentration is influenced by vitamin D supplementation and physical exercise.
Method: Serum was taken from 69 (47 female) prefrail community-dwelling older adults participating in a training intervention study to measure the CAF concentration using the Western blot technique. All participants were supplemented orally with vitamin D3 before the training intervention period commenced. Appendicular lean mass (aLM) was evaluated by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Multiple linear regression models were used to identify factors significantly associated with CAF concentration.
Results: Appendicular lean mass, age and sex were identified as significant explanatory factors for CAF concentration. Gait speed and hand grip strength were not associated with CAF concentration. Male participants showed a strong correlation (r=-0.524) between CAF serum concentration and aLM, whereas this was not the case (r=-0.219) in females. Vitamin D supplementation and physical exercise were significantly associated with a reduction in CAF concentration, especially in participants with initially high CAF concentrations.
Conclusions: C-terminal Agrin Fragment could be a potential marker for identifying sarcopenia in a subgroup of affected individuals in the future. The decline of muscle mass seems to be a CAF-associated process in males, whereas the situation in females may be more complex and multifactorial. CAF concentration is reduced by vitamin D supplementation and physical exercise and therefore suggests a potentially positive effect on NMJs. Further prospective studies of sarcopenic patients in addition to muscle biopsy and electromyographical investigations are planned to verify the external validity of the CAF concept.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.