Metabolites (May 2021)

Lifelong Aerobic Exercise Alleviates Sarcopenia by Activating Autophagy and Inhibiting Protein Degradation via the AMPK/PGC-1α Signaling Pathway

  • Jiling Liang,
  • Hu Zhang,
  • Zhengzhong Zeng,
  • Liangwen Wu,
  • Ying Zhang,
  • Yanju Guo,
  • Jun Lv,
  • Cenyi Wang,
  • Jingjing Fan,
  • Ning Chen

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 5
p. 323


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Sarcopenia is an aging-induced syndrome characterized by a progressive reduction of skeletal muscle mass and strength. Increasing evidence has attested that appropriate and scientific exercise could induce autophagy or optimize the functional status of autophagy, which plays a critical role in senescent muscular dystrophy. As a publicly recognized strategy for extending lifespan and improving the health of the elderly, the underlying mechanisms of lifelong regular aerobic exercise for the prevention of sarcopenia have not been fully elucidated. To explore the role of lifelong aerobic exercise in the beneficial regulation of autophagic signaling pathways in senescent skeletal muscle, the natural aging mice were used as the sarcopenia model and subjected to lifelong treadmill running to evaluate corresponding parameters related to skeletal muscle atrophy and autophagic signaling pathways. Compared with the young control mice, the aged mice showed a significant reduction in skeletal muscle mass, gastrocnemius muscle weight/body weight (GMW/BW) ratio, and cross-sectional areas (CSA) of skeletal muscle fibers (p < 0.01). In contrast, lifelong aerobic exercise effectively rescued these reduced biomarkers associated with muscle atrophy. Moreover, as shown in the activated AMPK/PGC-1α signaling pathway, lifelong aerobic exercise successfully prevented the aging-induced impairment of the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS), excessive apoptosis, defective autophagy, and mitochondrial dysfunction. The exercise-induced autophagy suppressed the key regulatory components of the UPS, inhibited excessive apoptosis, and optimized mitochondrial quality control, thereby preventing and delaying aging-induced skeletal muscle atrophy.