Investigation into the mechanisms responsible for muscle atrophy in cancer cachexia

  • Helen L. Eley

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Cachexia inducing tumours are known to produce a glycoprotein called proteolysis inducing factor (PIF), which induces skeletal muscle atrophy via increased protein degradation and decreased protein synthesis. The objective of this study was to investigate the signalling pathway by which PIF reduces protein synthesis in skeletal muscle and to determine the link, if any, to the ability to induce protein degradation. In murine myotubes PIF induced an increase in expression of the active form of the dsNRA dependent protein kinase (PKR), as well as the phosphorylated form of the translation initiator elF2a, possibly through the release of calcium, at the same concentration as that inhibiting protein synthesis. Inhibition of PKR reversed the inhibition of protein synthesis by PIF and also the induction of protein degradation through the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway by a reduction in the nuclear migration of NK-?B. The expression of phosphorylated forms of PKR and elF2a was also increased in the muscle of cancer patients experiencing weight loss, and in gastrocnemius muscle of mice bearing the cachexia inducing MAC16 tumour, as well as in the tumour itself. Treatment of mice bearing the MAC16 tumour with a PKR inhibitor attenuated muscle atrophy and inhibited tumour growth, through the inactivation of PKR and the consequent reduction of nuclear accumulation of NF-?B. A decreased translational efficiency of the elF-4F complex of initiation factors through dephosphorylation of 4E-BP1 and an increase eEF2 phosphorylation was seen in response to PIF in vitro. The same pattern of events also occurred in gastrocnemius muscle of mice bearing the MAC16 tumour demonstrating weight loss, where a depression of mTOR and p70S6K activation was also observed as weight loss increased.
Date of Award2007
Original languageEnglish


  • cachexia
  • PKR
  • elF2α
  • ubiquitin-proteasome
  • elF4F

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