Musclin, a myokine induced by aerobic exercise, retards muscle atrophy during cancer cachexia in mice

Andrea D. Re Cecconi, Mara Forti, Michela Chiappa, Zhiyong Zhu, Leonid V. Zingman, Luigi Cervo, Luca Beltrame, Sergio Marchini, Rosanna Piccirillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Physical activity improves the prognosis of cancer patients, partly by contrasting the associated muscle wasting (cachexia), through still unknown mechanisms. We asked whether aerobic exercise causes secretion by skeletal muscles of proteins (myokines) that may contrast cachexia. Media conditioned by peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator 1α (PGC1α)-expressing myotubes, reproducing some metabolic adaptations of aerobic exercise, as increased mitochondrial biogenesis and oxidative phosphorylation, restrained constitutively active Forkhead box-containing subfamily O3 (caFoxO3)-induced proteolysis. Microarray analysis identified amphiregulin (AREG), natriuretic peptide precursor B (NppB), musclin and fibroblast growth factor 18 (FGF18) as myokines highly induced by PGC1α. Notably, only musclin tended to be low in muscle of mice with a rare human renal carcinoma; it was reduced in plasma and in muscles of C26-bearing mice and in atrophying myotubes, where PGC1α expression is impaired. Therefore, we electroporated the Tibialis Anterior (TA) of C26-bearing mice with musclin or (its receptor) natriuretic peptide receptor 3 (Npr3)-encoding plasmids and found a preserved fiber area, as a result of restrained proteolysis. Musclin knockout (KO) mice lose more muscle tissue during growth of two distinct cachexia-causing tumors. Running protected C26-bearing mice from cachexia, not changing tumor growth, and rescued the C26-induced downregulation of musclin in muscles and plasma. Musclin expression did not change in overloaded plantaris of mice, recapitulating partially muscle adaptations to anaerobic exercise. Musclin might, therefore, be beneficial to cancer patients who cannot exercise and are at risk of cachexia and may help to explain how aerobic exercise alleviates cancer-induced muscle wasting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1541
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Aerobic exercise
  • Cancer cachexia
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Muscle wasting
  • Musclin
  • Myokine
  • PGC1α

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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