Tumor necrosis factor-like weak inducer of apoptosis regulates quadriceps muscle atrophy and fiber-type alteration in a rat model of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
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Department of Respiratory Medicine, The Third XiangYa Hospital of Central South University, Changsha, People’s Republic of China
Department of Respiratory Medicine, Changsha Central Hospital, Changsha, People’s Republic of China
Submission date: 2017-02-23
Acceptance date: 2017-10-27
Publication date: 2017-11-09
Corresponding author
Sheng Hua Sun   

Department of Respiratory Medicine, The Third XiangYa Hospital of Central South University, 138 Tongzipo Road, Changsha, Hunan 410013, People’s Republic of China
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2017;15(November):43
In chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), weakness and muscle mass loss of the quadriceps muscle has been demonstrated to predict survival and mortality rates of patients. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-like weak inducer of apoptosis (TWEAK), as a member of the TNF superfamily, has recently been identified as a key regulator of skeletal muscle wasting and metabolic dysfunction. So our aim was to study the role of TWEAK during quadriceps muscle atrophy and fiber-type transformation in COPD model rats and its possible pathway.

Forty-four healthy male adult Wistar rats were randomly divided into two groups: A normal control group (n = 16) and a COPD model group (n = 28). The COPD group was exposed to cigarette smoke for 90 d and injected with porcine pancreatic elastase on day 15, whereas the control group was injected with saline alone. Following treatment, weights of the quadriceps muscles were measured and hematoxylin and eosin staining was performed to identify structural changes in lung and quadriceps muscle tissue. Immunohistochemical staining was also conducted to determine the localization of TWEAK, nuclear factor (NF)-κB, muscle ring finger (MuRF)-1 and proliferator-activated coactivator (PGC)-1a proteins in the quadriceps muscle, and western blotting was used to assess the level of protein expression.

Compared with controls, COPD model rats exhibited significantly lower quadriceps muscle weight (P < 0.05) accompanied by fiber atrophy and disordered fiber arrangement, a wide gap between adjacent muscle fibers, a significant reduction in nuclear number (P < 0.05) and an uneven size distribution. The proportion of fiber types was also significantly altered (P < 0.05). In addition, TWEAK expression in the quadriceps muscle of COPD model rats was significantly higher than that in control rats (P < 0.05), and was significantly associated with quadriceps atrophy and fiber-type alteration (P < 0.05). Levels of NF-κB, MuRF1 and PGC-1α expression also significantly differed between the two groups (P < 0.05).

Collectively these data suggest that increased levels of TWEAK may lead to skeletal muscle atrophy and fiber-type alteration, which in turn may be associated with activation of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway, involving NF-κB, MuRF1 and PGC-1α as potential regulatory factors. These preliminary results in rats suggest that TWEAK may be a therapeutic target for the treatment of muscle atrophy in COPD.

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