Retained differentiation capacity of human skeletal muscle satellite cells from spinal cord‐injured individuals

Mladen Savikj, Maxwell A. Ruby, Emil Kostovski, Per O. Iversen, Juleen R. Zierath, Anna Krook, Ulrika Widegren

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Despite the well‐known role of satellite cells in skeletal muscle plasticity, the effect of spinal cord injury on their function in humans remains unknown. We determined whether spinal cord injury affects the intrinsic ability of satellite cells to differentiate and produce metabolically healthy myotubes. We obtained vastus lateralis biopsies from eight spinal cord‐injured and six able‐bodied individuals. Satellite cells were isolated, grown and differentiated in vitro. Gene expression was measured by quantitative PCR. Abundance of differentiation markers and regulatory proteins was determined by Western blotting. Protein synthesis and fatty acid oxidation were measured by radioactive tracer‐based assays. Activated satellite cells (myoblasts) and differentiated myotubes derived from skeletal muscle of able‐bodied and spinal cord‐injured individuals expressed similar (P > 0.05) mRNA levels of myogenic regulatory factors. Myogenic differentiation factor 1 expression was higher in myoblasts from spinal cord‐injured individuals. Desmin and myogenin protein content was increased upon differentiation in both groups, while myotubes from spinal cord‐injured individuals contained more type I and II myosin heavy chain. Phosphorylated and total protein levels of Akt‐mechanistic target of rapamycin and forkhead box protein O signalling axes and protein synthesis rate in myotubes were similar (P > 0.05) between groups. Additionally, fatty acid oxidation of myotubes from spinal cord‐injured individuals was unchanged (P > 0.05) compared to able‐bodied controls. Our results indicate that the intrinsic differentiation capacity of satellite cells and metabolic characteristics of myotubes are preserved following spinal cord injury. This may inform potential interventions targeting satellite cell activation to alleviate skeletal muscle atrophy.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13739
JournalPhysiological Reports
Issue number12
Early online date14 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Muscle atrophy
  • satellite cells
  • skeletal muscle
  • spinal cord injury

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