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1.  Synthesis of Mitochondrial DNA Precursors during Myogenesis, an Analysis in Purified C2C12 Myotubes* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2013;288(8):5624-5635.
Background: In developing muscle, stimulation of mitochondrial biogenesis and mtDNA expansion occur with down-regulation of deoxynucleotide synthesis.
Results: siRNA silencing of mitochondrial thymidine or deoxyguanosine kinase impacts myotube differentiation causing depletion of mtDNA and of all four deoxynucleotides.
Conclusion: Shortage of even a single deoxynucleotide may upset the regulation of all DNA precursors.
Significance: Deoxynucleotide analysis in myotubes unveils unexpected outcomes of synthetic enzyme deficiencies.
During myogenesis, myoblasts fuse into multinucleated myotubes that acquire the contractile fibrils and accessory structures typical of striated skeletal muscle fibers. To support the high energy requirements of muscle contraction, myogenesis entails an increase in mitochondrial (mt) mass with stimulation of mtDNA synthesis and consumption of DNA precursors (dNTPs). Myotubes are quiescent cells and as such down-regulate dNTP production despite a high demand for dNTPs. Although myogenesis has been studied extensively, changes in dNTP metabolism have not been examined specifically. In differentiating cultures of C2C12 myoblasts and purified myotubes, we analyzed expression and activities of enzymes of dNTP biosynthesis, dNTP pools, and the expansion of mtDNA. Myotubes exibited pronounced post-mitotic modifications of dNTP synthesis with a particularly marked down-regulation of de novo thymidylate synthesis. Expression profiling revealed the same pattern of enzyme down-regulation in adult murine muscles. The mtDNA increased steadily after myoblast fusion, turning over rapidly, as revealed after treatment with ethidium bromide. We individually down-regulated p53R2 ribonucleotide reductase, thymidine kinase 2, and deoxyguanosine kinase by siRNA transfection to examine how a further reduction of these synthetic enzymes impacted myotube development. Silencing of p53R2 had little effect, but silencing of either mt kinase caused 50% mtDNA depletion and an unexpected decrease of all four dNTP pools independently of the kinase specificity. We suggest that during development of myotubes the shortage of even a single dNTP may affect all four pools through dysregulation of ribonucleotide reduction and/or dissipation of the non-limiting dNTPs during unproductive elongation of new DNA chains.
PMCID: PMC3581417  PMID: 23297407
Mitochondrial Diseases; Mitochondrial DNA; Nucleoside Nucleotide Metabolism; Ribonucleotide Reductase; Skeletal Muscle; Deoxyguanosine Kinase; mtDNA Depletion; siRNA Silencing; Thymidine Kinase 2
2.  Microgenomic Analysis in Skeletal Muscle: Expression Signatures of Individual Fast and Slow Myofibers 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16807.
Skeletal muscle is a complex, versatile tissue composed of a variety of functionally diverse fiber types. Although the biochemical, structural and functional properties of myofibers have been the subject of intense investigation for the last decades, understanding molecular processes regulating fiber type diversity is still complicated by the heterogeneity of cell types present in the whole muscle organ.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We have produced a first catalogue of genes expressed in mouse slow-oxidative (type 1) and fast-glycolytic (type 2B) fibers through transcriptome analysis at the single fiber level (microgenomics). Individual fibers were obtained from murine soleus and EDL muscles and initially classified by myosin heavy chain isoform content. Gene expression profiling on high density DNA oligonucleotide microarrays showed that both qualitative and quantitative improvements were achieved, compared to results with standard muscle homogenate. First, myofiber profiles were virtually free from non-muscle transcriptional activity. Second, thousands of muscle-specific genes were identified, leading to a better definition of gene signatures in the two fiber types as well as the detection of metabolic and signaling pathways that are differentially activated in specific fiber types. Several regulatory proteins showed preferential expression in slow myofibers. Discriminant analysis revealed novel genes that could be useful for fiber type functional classification.
As gene expression analyses at the single fiber level significantly increased the resolution power, this innovative approach would allow a better understanding of the adaptive transcriptomic transitions occurring in myofibers under physiological and pathological conditions.
PMCID: PMC3043066  PMID: 21364935
3.  Different atrophy-hypertrophy transcription pathways in muscles affected by severe and mild spinal muscular atrophy 
BMC Medicine  2009;7:14.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neurodegenerative disorder associated with mutations of the survival motor neuron gene SMN and is characterized by muscle weakness and atrophy caused by degeneration of spinal motor neurons. SMN has a role in neurons but its deficiency may have a direct effect on muscle tissue.
We applied microarray and quantitative real-time PCR to study at transcriptional level the effects of a defective SMN gene in skeletal muscles affected by the two forms of SMA: the most severe type I and the mild type III.
The two forms of SMA generated distinct expression signatures: the SMA III muscle transcriptome is close to that found under normal conditions, whereas in SMA I there is strong alteration of gene expression. Genes implicated in signal transduction were up-regulated in SMA III whereas those of energy metabolism and muscle contraction were consistently down-regulated in SMA I. The expression pattern of gene networks involved in atrophy signaling was completed by qRT-PCR, showing that specific pathways are involved, namely IGF/PI3K/Akt, TNF-α/p38 MAPK and Ras/ERK pathways.
Our study suggests a different picture of atrophy pathways in each of the two forms of SMA. In particular, p38 may be the regulator of protein synthesis in SMA I. The SMA III profile appears as the result of the concurrent presence of atrophic and hypertrophic fibers. This more favorable condition might be due to the over-expression of MTOR that, given its role in the activation of protein synthesis, could lead to compensatory hypertrophy in SMA III muscle fibers.
PMCID: PMC2676312  PMID: 19351384
4.  Muscle Research and Gene Ontology: New standards for improved data integration 
The Gene Ontology Project provides structured controlled vocabularies for molecular biology that can be used for the functional annotation of genes and gene products. In a collaboration between the Gene Ontology (GO) Consortium and the muscle biology community, we have made large-scale additions to the GO biological process and cellular component ontologies. The main focus of this ontology development work concerns skeletal muscle, with specific consideration given to the processes of muscle contraction, plasticity, development, and regeneration, and to the sarcomere and membrane-delimited compartments. Our aims were to update the existing structure to reflect current knowledge, and to resolve, in an accommodating manner, the ambiguity in the language used by the community.
The updated muscle terminologies have been incorporated into the GO. There are now 159 new terms covering critical research areas, and 57 existing terms have been improved and reorganized to follow their usage in muscle literature.
The revised GO structure should improve the interpretation of data from high-throughput (e.g. microarray and proteomic) experiments in the area of muscle science and muscle disease. We actively encourage community feedback on, and gene product annotation with these new terms. Please visit the Muscle Community Annotation Wiki .
PMCID: PMC2657163  PMID: 19178689
5.  Reconstruction and functional analysis of altered molecular pathways in human atherosclerotic arteries 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:13.
Atherosclerosis affects aorta, coronary, carotid, and iliac arteries most frequently than any other body vessel. There may be common molecular pathways sustaining this process. Plaque presence and diffusion is revealed by circulating factors that can mediate systemic reaction leading to plaque rupture and thrombosis.
We used DNA microarrays and meta-analysis to study how the presence of calcified plaque modifies human coronary and carotid gene expression. We identified a series of potential human atherogenic genes that are integrated in functional networks involved in atherosclerosis. Caveolae and JAK/STAT pathways, and S100A9/S100A8 interacting proteins are certainly involved in the development of vascular disease. We found that the system of caveolae is directly connected with genes that respond to hormone receptors, and indirectly with the apoptosis pathway.
Cytokines, chemokines and growth factors released in the blood flux were investigated in parallel. High levels of RANTES, IL-1ra, MIP-1alpha, MIP-1beta, IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-7, IL-17, PDGF-BB, VEGF and IFN-gamma were found in plasma of atherosclerotic patients and might also be integrated in the molecular networks underlying atherosclerotic modifications of these vessels.
The pattern of cytokine and S100A9/S100A8 up-regulation characterizes atherosclerosis as a proinflammatory disorder. Activation of the JAK/STAT pathway is confirmed by the up-regulation of IL-6, STAT1, ISGF3G and IL10RA genes in coronary and carotid plaques. The functional network constructed in our research is an evidence of the central role of STAT protein and the caveolae system to contribute to preserve the plaque. Moreover, Cav-1 is involved in SMC differentiation and dyslipidemia confirming the importance of lipid homeostasis in the atherosclerotic phenotype.
PMCID: PMC2654039  PMID: 19134193
6.  Meta-analysis of expression signatures of muscle atrophy: gene interaction networks in early and late stages 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:630.
Skeletal muscle mass can be markedly reduced through a process called atrophy, as a consequence of many diseases or critical physiological and environmental situations. Atrophy is characterised by loss of contractile proteins and reduction of fiber volume. Although in the last decade the molecular aspects underlying muscle atrophy have received increased attention, the fine mechanisms controlling muscle degeneration are still incomplete. In this study we applied meta-analysis on gene expression signatures pertaining to different types of muscle atrophy for the identification of novel key regulatory signals implicated in these degenerative processes.
We found a general down-regulation of genes involved in energy production and carbohydrate metabolism and up-regulation of genes for protein degradation and catabolism. Six functional pathways occupy central positions in the molecular network obtained by the integration of atrophy transcriptome and molecular interaction data. They are TGF-β pathway, apoptosis, membrane trafficking/cytoskeleton organization, NFKB pathways, inflammation and reorganization of the extracellular matrix. Protein degradation pathway is evident only in the network specific for muscle short-term response to atrophy. TGF-β pathway plays a central role with proteins SMAD3/4, MYC, MAX and CDKN1A in the general network, and JUN, MYC, GNB2L1/RACK1 in the short-term muscle response network.
Our study offers a general overview of the molecular pathways and cellular processes regulating the establishment and maintenance of atrophic state in skeletal muscle, showing also how the different pathways are interconnected. This analysis identifies novel key factors that could be further investigated as potential targets for the development of therapeutic treatments. We suggest that the transcription factors SMAD3/4, GNB2L1/RACK1, MYC, MAX and JUN, whose functions have been extensively studied in tumours but only marginally in muscle, appear instead to play important roles in regulating muscle response to atrophy.
PMCID: PMC2642825  PMID: 19108710
7.  A two-step strategy for constructing specifically self-subtracted cDNA libraries 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(9):e38.
We have developed a new strategy for producing subtracted cDNA libraries that is optimized for connective and epithelial tissues, where a few exceptionally abundant (super-prevalent) RNA species account for a large fraction of the total mRNA mass. Our method consists of a two-step subtraction of the most abundant mRNAs: the first step involves a novel use of oligo-directed RNase H digestion to lower the concentration of tissue-specific, super-prevalent RNAs. In the second step, a highly specific subtraction is achieved through hybridization with probes from a 3′-end ESTs collection. By applying this technique in skeletal muscle, we have constructed subtracted cDNA libraries that are effectively enriched for genes expressed at low levels. We further report on frequent premature termination of transcription in human muscle mitochondria and discuss the importance of this phenomenon in designing subtractive approaches. The tissue-specific collections of cDNA clones generated by our method are particularly well suited for expression profiling.
PMCID: PMC113861  PMID: 11972353

Results 1-7 (7)