Neurogenic muscle atrophy is the loss of skeletal muscle mass and function that occurs with nerve injury and in denervating diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Aside from prompt restoration of innervation and exercise where feasible, there are currently no effective strategies for maintaining skeletal muscle mass in the setting of denervation. We conducted a longitudinal analysis of gene expression changes occurring in atrophying skeletal muscle and identified growth arrest and DNA damage-inducible A (Gadd45a) as a gene that shows one of the earliest and most sustained increases in expression in skeletal muscle after denervation. We evaluated the role of this induction using genetic mouse models and found that mice lacking GADD45A showed accelerated and exacerbated neurogenic muscle atrophy, as well as loss of fiber type identity. Our genetic analyses demonstrate that, rather than directly contributing to muscle atrophy as proposed in earlier studies, GADD45A induction likely represents a protective negative feedback response to denervation. Establishing the downstream effectors that mediate this protective effect and the pathways they participate in may yield new opportunities to modify the course of muscle atrophy.
Jeffrey T. Ehmsen, Riki Kawaguchi, Damlanur Kaval, Anna E. Johnson, Daniel Nachun, Giovanni Coppola, Ahmet Höke