Calpain 3 (CAPN3), also known as p94, is a skeletal muscle-specific member of the calpain family that is involved in muscular dystrophy; however, the roles of CAPN3 in muscular atrophy and regeneration are yet to be understood. In the present study, we attempted to explain the effect of CAPN3 in muscle atrophy by evaluating CAPN3 expression in rat gastrocnemius muscle following reversible sciatic nerve injury. After nerve injury, the wet weight ratio and cross sectional area (CSA) of gastrocnemius muscle were decreased gradually from 1–14 days and then recovery from 14–28 days. The active form of CAPN3 (~62 kDa) protein decreased slightly on day 3 and then increased from day 7 to 14 before a decrease from day 14 to 28. The result of linear correlation analysis showed that expression of the active CAPN3 protein level was negatively correlated with muscle wet weight ratio. CAPN3
knockdown by short interfering RNA (siRNA) injection improved muscle recovery on days 7 and 14 after injury as compared to that observed with control siRNA treatment. Depletion of CAPN3
gene expression could promote myoblast differentiation in L6 cells. Based on these findings, we conclude that the expression pattern of the active CAPN3 protein is linked to muscle atrophy and regeneration following denervation: its upregulation during early stages may promote satellite cell renewal by inhibiting differentiation, whereas in later stages, CAPN3 expression may be downregulated to stimulate myogenic differentiation and enhance recovery. These results provide a novel mechanistic insight into the role of CAPN3 protein in muscle regeneration after peripheral nerve injury.
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