Functional replacement of myostatin with GDF-11 in the germline of mice

Skelet Muscle. 2022 Mar 15;12(1):7. doi: 10.1186/s13395-022-00290-z.


Background: Myostatin (MSTN) is a transforming growth factor-ß superfamily member that acts as a major regulator of skeletal muscle mass. GDF-11, which is highly related to MSTN, plays multiple roles during embryonic development, including regulating development of the axial skeleton, kidneys, nervous system, and pancreas. As MSTN and GDF-11 share a high degree of amino acid sequence identity, behave virtually identically in cell culture assays, and utilize similar regulatory and signaling components, a critical question is whether their distinct biological functions result from inherent differences in their abilities to interact with specific regulatory and signaling components or whether their distinct biological functions mainly reflect their differing temporal and spatial patterns of expression.

Methods: We generated and characterized mice in which we precisely replaced in the germline the portion of the Mstn gene encoding the mature C-terminal peptide with the corresponding region of Gdf11.

Results: In mice homozygous for the knock-in allele, all of the circulating MSTN protein was replaced with GDF-11, resulting in ~ 30-40-fold increased levels of circulating GDF-11. Male mice homozygous for the knock-in allele had slightly decreased muscle weights, slightly increased weight gain in response to a high-fat diet, slightly increased plasma cholesterol and HDL levels, and significantly decreased bone density and bone mass, whereas female mice were mostly unaffected.

Conclusions: GDF-11 appears to be capable of nearly completely functionally replacing MSTN in the control of muscle mass. The developmental and physiological consequences of replacing MSTN with GDF-11 are strikingly limited.

Keywords: Body composition; Bone; Fat; GDF-11; Gene knock-in; Metabolism; Muscle; Myostatin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / genetics
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Germ Cells / metabolism
  • Growth Differentiation Factors / genetics
  • Growth Differentiation Factors / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / metabolism
  • Myostatin* / genetics
  • Myostatin* / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • Gdf11 protein, mouse
  • Growth Differentiation Factors
  • Myostatin