Background: Skeletal muscle mass is governed by multiple IGF-1-sensitive positive regulators of muscle-specific protein synthesis (myogenic regulatory factors which includes myoD, myogenin and Myf5) and negative regulators, including the atrogenic proteins myostatin, atrogin-1 and muscle ring finger 1 (MuRF-1). The coordinated control of these myogenic and atrogenic factors in human skeletal muscle following short-term fasting is currently unknown. Method: Healthy adults (n = 6, age 27.6 years) undertook a 40-hour fast. Skeletal muscle biopsy (vastus lateralis) and venous blood samples were taken 3, 15 and 40 h into the fast after an initial standard high-carbohydrate meal. Gene expression of the myogenic regulator factors (myoD, myogenin and Myf5) and the atrogenic factors (myostatin, atrogin-1 and MuRF-1) were determined by real-time PCR analysis. Plasma myostatin and IGF-1 were determined by ELISA. Results: There were no significant alterations in either the positive or negative regulators of muscle mass at either 15 or 40 h, when compared to gene expression measured 3 h after a meal. Similarly, plasma myostatin and IGF-1 were also unaltered at these times. Conclusions: Unlike previous observations in catabolic and cachexic diseased states, short-term fasting (40 h) fails to elicit marked alteration of the genes regulating both muscle-specific protein synthesis or atrophy. Greater periods of fasting may be required to initiate coordinated inhibition of myogenic and atrogenic gene expression.

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