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U-M researchers solve a molecular mystery in muscle
Date:3/15/2010

it differentiates, it can never divide again," Duan said. How activation of the same receptor by the same hormone can elicit two such distinctly different responses has been one of the most puzzling questions about IGF, but Duan and colleagues have found the answer.

"The myoblasts' response is controlled by oxygen availability," said Duan. When oxygen levels are normal, IGF promotes muscle cell differentiation; when oxygen levels are below normal, IGF promotes muscle cell division. Teasing out the molecular details, the researchers discovered that low oxygen activates an intermediary called the HIF-1 complex, which reprograms the cascade of steps that ultimately controls the cell's response.

The findings not only reveal how muscle cells respond to varying oxygen levels during normal development, but also have implications for human disease, Duan said. "For example, a major reason that muscle atrophy occurs as people get older is that the IGF signal gets weaker. If we can find a way to affect IGF signaling, we may be able to stop or reverse the loss." Although manipulating the oxygen levels in living cells could be difficult, it may be possible to manipulate HIF-1 in ways that would mimic changing oxygen levels.

The work also could help scientists better understand the processes involved in cancer progression and spread. It's known that IGF can promote tumor cell division and survival and also that oxygen levels are often lower in tumor tissue than in normal tissue. Finding the link between IGF activity and oxygen levels may lead to new strategies for cancer treatment.


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Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan
rossflan@umich.edu
734-647-1853
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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