Forkhead box O (Foxo) transcription factors induce muscle atrophy by upregulating the muscle-specific E3 ubiquitin ligases MuRF-1 and atrogin-1/MAFbx, but other than Akt, the upstream regulators of Foxos during muscle atrophy are largely unknown. To examine the involvement of the dystrophin glycoprotein complex (DGC) in regulation of Foxo activities and muscle atrophy, we analyzed the expression of DGC members during tail suspension, a model of unloading-induced muscle atrophy. Among several DGC members, only neuronal NOS (nNOS) quickly dislocated from the sarcolemma to the cytoplasm during tail suspension. Electron paramagnetic resonance spectrometry revealed production of NO in atrophying muscle. nNOS-null mice showed much milder muscle atrophy after tail suspension than did wild-type mice. Importantly, nuclear accumulation of dephosphorylated Foxo3a was not evident in nNOS-null muscle, and neither MuRF-1 nor atrogin-1/MAFbx were upregulated during tail suspension. Furthermore, an nNOS-specific inhibitor, 7-nitroindazole, significantly prevented suspension-induced muscle atrophy. The NF-κB pathway was activated in both wild-type and nNOS-null muscle during tail suspension. We also show that nNOS was involved in the mechanism of denervation-induced atrophy. We conclude that nNOS/NO mediates muscle atrophy via regulation of Foxo transcription factors and is a new therapeutic target for disuse-induced muscle atrophy.
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