Cellular signalling pathways involved in muscle atrophy in cancer cachexia

  • Stacey M. Wyke

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Cancer cachexia encompases severe weight loss, characterised by the debilitating atrophy of adipose and skeletal muscle mass.
Skeletal muscle proteolysis in cancer cachexia is mediated by a sulphated glycoprotein with a relative molecular mass of 24kDa, termed Proteolysis-Inducing Factor (PIF). PIF induced a significant increase in protein degradation, peaking at 4.2nM PIF (p<0.001), ‘chymotrypsin-like’ activity of the proteasome (p<0.001) and increased expression of components of the ATP-ubiquitin dependent proteolytic pathway. This was attenuated in vitro by pre-incubation with the PKC inhibitor calphostin C (100µM) and NF-kB the inhibitors SN50 (18µM), curcumin (50µM) and resveratrol (30µM), 2 hours prior to the addition of PIF.
In vivo studies found the IKK inhibitor resveratrol (1mg/kg) to be successful in attenuating protein degradation (p<0.001) and upregulation of ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis in MAC16 tumour bearing mice. C2C12 myoblasts transfected with mutant IkBα and PKCα inserts did not elicit a PIF-induced response, suggesting the importance of the transcription factor NF-kB and PKC  involvement in PIF signal transduction.
15(S)-HETE acts as an intracellular mediator of PIF and exerts an effect through the activation of PKC and subsequently IKK, which phosphorylates IkBα and allows NF-kB to migrate to the nucleus. This effect was negated with the PKC inhibitor calphostin C (300nM).
A commercially produced PIF receptor antibody was raised in rabbits immunised with a peptide containing the partial N-terminal sequence of the PIF receptor. The PIF receptor antibody was successful in attenuating the PIF-induced increase in skeletal muscle catabolism and protein degradation in vitro at 10µg/ml (p<0.001) and 3.47mg/kg in vivo (p<0.001). The data suggest great potential in the development of this antibody as a therapy against cancer cachexia.

Date of AwardSept 2004
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael J Tisdale (Supervisor)


  • cachexia
  • proteolysis-inducing factor
  • ATP-ubiquitin dependent proteolysis

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