A cell-autonomous role for the glucocorticoid receptor in skeletal muscle atrophy induced by systemic glucocorticoid exposure

Monica L. Watson, Leslie M. Baehr, Holger M. Reichardt, Jan P. Tuckermann, Sue C. Bodine, John Furlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Glucocorticoids (GCs) are important regulators of skeletal muscle mass, and prolonged exposure will induce significant muscle atrophy. To better understand the mechanism of skeletal muscle atrophy induced by elevated GC levels, we examined three different models: exogenous synthetic GC treatment [dexamethasone (DEX)], nutritional deprivation, and denervation. Specifically, we tested the direct contribution of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) in skeletal muscle atrophy by creating a muscle-specific GR-knockout mouse line (MGR e3KO) using Cre-lox technology. In MGR e3KO mice, we found that the GR is essential for muscle atrophy in response to high-dose DEX treatment. In addition, DEX regulation of multiple genes, including two important atrophy markers, MuRF1 and MAFbx, is eliminated completely in the MGR e3KO mice. In a condition where endogenous GCs are elevated, such as nutritional deprivation, induction of MuRF1 and MAFbx was inhibited, but not completely blocked, in MGR e3KO mice. In response to sciatic nerve lesion and hindlimb muscle denervation, muscle atrophy and upregulation of MuRF1 and MAFbx occurred to the same extent in both wild-type and MGR e3KO mice, indicating that a functional GR is not required to induce atrophy under these conditions. Therefore, we demonstrate conclusively that the GR is an important mediator of skeletal muscle atrophy and associated gene expression in response to exogenous synthetic GCs in vivo and that the MGR e3KO mouse is a useful model for studying the role of the GR and its target genes in multiple skeletal muscle atrophy models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2012


  • Denervation
  • Dexamethasone
  • Muscle atrophy F-box
  • Muscle RING finger 1
  • Nutritional deprivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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