Increased expression of proteasome subunits in skeletal muscle of cancer patients with weight loss

J. Khal, A.V. Hine, K.C.H. Fearon, C.H.C. Dejong, M.J. Tisdale*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


Atrophy of skeletal muscle is common in patients with cancer and results in increased morbidity and mortality. In order to design effective therapy the mechanism by which this occurs needs to be elucidated. Most studies suggest that the ubiquitin-proteasome proteolytic pathway is most important in intracellular proteolysis, although there have been no reports on the activity of this pathway in patients with different extents of weight loss. In this report the expression of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway in rectus abdominis muscle has been determined in cancer patients with weight loss of 0-34% using a competitive reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction to measure expression of mRNA for proteasome subunits C2 and C5, while protein expression has been determined by western blotting. Overall, both C2 and C5 gene expression was increased by about three-fold in skeletal muscle of cachectic cancer patients (average weight loss 14.5 ± 2.5%), compared with that in patients without weight loss, with or without cancer. The level of gene expression was dependent on the amount of weight loss, increasing maximally for both proteasome subunits in patients with weight loss of 12-19%. Further increases in weight loss reduced expression of mRNA for both proteasome subunits, although it was still elevated in comparison with patients with no weight loss. There was no evidence for an increase in expression at weight losses less than 10%. There was a good correlation between expression of proteasome 20Sα subunits, detected by western blotting, and C2 and C5 mRNA, showing that increased gene expression resulted in increased protein synthesis. Expression of the ubiquitin conjugating enzyme, E214k, with weight loss followed a similar pattern to that of proteasome subunits. These results suggest variations in the expression of key components of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway with weight loss of cancer patients, and suggest that another mechanism of protein degradation must be operative for patients with weight loss less than 10%. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2196-2206
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Issue number10
Early online date7 Dec 2004
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005


  • cancer cachexia
  • muscle atrophy
  • proteasome gene expression
  • proteasome proteolysis


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