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Skeletal muscle mass is controlled by the MRF4–MEF2 axis

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Purpose of review

The review is focused on the unexpected role of myogenic regulatory factor 4 (MRF4) in controlling muscle mass by repressing myocyte enhancer binding factor 2 (MEF2) activity in adult skeletal muscle, and on the emerging role of MEF2 in skeletal muscle growth.

Recent findings

The MRF4s of the MyoD family (MyoD, MYF5, MRF4, myogenin) and the MEF2 factors are known to play a major role in embryonic myogenesis. However, their function in adult muscle tissue is not known. A recent study shows that MRF4 loss in adult skeletal muscle causes muscle hypertrophy and prevents denervation atrophy. This effect is mediated by MEF2 factors that promote muscle growth, with MRF4 acting as a repressor of MEF2 activity. The role of MEF2 in skeletal muscle growth is supported by the finding that muscle regeneration is impaired by muscle-specific triple knockout of Mef2a, c, and d genes.Summary

The finding that the MRF4–MEF2 axis controls muscle growth opens a new perspective for preventing muscle wasting. A unique feature of this pathway is that MRF4 is exclusively expressed in skeletal muscle, thus reducing the risk that interventions aimed at down-regulating MRF4 or interfering with the interaction between MRF4 and MEF2 may have off-target effects in other tissues.
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Keywords: muscle atrophy; muscle hypertrophy; myocyte enhancer binding factor 2; myogenic regulatory factor 4; skeletal muscle

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Venetian Institute of Molecular Medicine (VIMM), Padova, Italy 2: Molecular Endocrinology, Institute for Diabetes and Obesity (IDO), Helmholtz Diabetes Center (HMGU) and German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), Munich, Germany 3: Department of Neurosciences, Biomedicine and Movement Sciences, University of Verona, Verona, Italy

Publication date: May 1, 2018

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