Activation of β-catenin in mesenchymal progenitors leads to muscle mass loss

Dev Cell. 2023 Mar 27;58(6):489-505.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2023.02.009. Epub 2023 Mar 9.


Loss of muscle mass is a common manifestation of chronic disease. We find the canonical Wnt pathway to be activated in mesenchymal progenitors (MPs) from cancer-induced cachectic mouse muscle. Next, we induce β-catenin transcriptional activity in murine MPs. As a result, we observe expansion of MPs in the absence of tissue damage, as well as rapid loss of muscle mass. Because MPs are present throughout the organism, we use spatially restricted CRE activation and show that the induction of tissue-resident MP activation is sufficient to induce muscle atrophy. We further identify increased expression of stromal NOGGIN and ACTIVIN-A as key drivers of atrophic processes in myofibers, and we verify their expression by MPs in cachectic muscle. Finally, we show that blocking ACTIVIN-A rescues the mass loss phenotype triggered by β-catenin activation in MPs, confirming its key functional role and strengthening the rationale for targeting this pathway in chronic disease.

Keywords: cancer-associated cachexia; canonical Wnt signaling; mesenchymal progenitors; muscle atrophy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Activins
  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway*
  • beta Catenin* / metabolism


  • beta Catenin
  • Activins