Functional Effects of Muscle PGC-1alpha in Aged Animals

Skelet Muscle. 2020 May 6;10(1):14. doi: 10.1186/s13395-020-00231-8.


PGC-1 (peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator-1) alpha is a potent transcriptional coactivator that coordinates the activation of numerous metabolic processes. Exercise strongly induces PGC-1alpha expression in muscle, and overexpression of PGC-1alpha in skeletal muscle activates mitochondrial oxidative metabolism and neovascularization, leading to markedly increased endurance. In light of these findings, PGC-1alpha has been proposed to protect from age-associated sarcopenia, bone loss, and whole-body metabolic dysfunction, although these findings have been controversial. We therefore comprehensively evaluated muscle and whole-body function and metabolism in 24-month-old transgenic mice that over-express PGC-1alpha in skeletal muscle. We find that the powerful effects of PGC-1alpha on promoting muscle oxidative capacity and protection from muscle fatigability persist in aged animals, although at the expense of muscle strength. However, skeletal muscle PGC-1alpha does not prevent bone loss and in fact accentuates it, nor does it have long-term benefit on whole-body metabolic composition or insulin sensitivity. Protection from sarcopenia is seen in male animals with overexpression of PGC-1alpha in skeletal muscle but not in female animals. In summary, muscle-specific expression of PGC-1alpha into old age has beneficial effects on muscle fatigability and may protect from sarcopenia in males, but does not improve whole-body metabolism and appears to worsen age-related trabecular bone loss.