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    Elevated expression of activins promotes muscle wasting and cachexia
    Chen, JL ; Walton, KL ; Winbanks, CE ; Murphy, KT ; Thomson, RE ; Makanji, Y ; Qian, H ; Lynch, GS ; Harrison, CA ; Gregorevic, P (FEDERATION AMER SOC EXP BIOL, 2014-04-01)
    In models of cancer cachexia, inhibiting type IIB activin receptors (ActRIIBs) reverse muscle wasting and prolongs survival, even with continued tumor growth. ActRIIB mediates signaling of numerous TGF-β proteins; of these, we demonstrate that activins are the most potent negative regulators of muscle mass. To determine whether activin signaling in the absence of tumor-derived factors induces cachexia, we used recombinant serotype 6 adeno-associated virus (rAAV6) vectors to increase circulating activin A levels in C57BL/6 mice. While mice injected with control vector gained ~10% of their starting body mass (3.8±0.4 g) over 10 wk, mice injected with increasing doses of rAAV6:activin A exhibited weight loss in a dose-dependent manner, to a maximum of -12.4% (-4.2±1.1 g). These reductions in body mass in rAAV6:activin-injected mice correlated inversely with elevated serum activin A levels (7- to 24-fold). Mechanistically, we show that activin A reduces muscle mass and function by stimulating the ActRIIB pathway, leading to deleterious consequences, including increased transcription of atrophy-related ubiquitin ligases, decreased Akt/mTOR-mediated protein synthesis, and a profibrotic response. Critically, we demonstrate that the muscle wasting and fibrosis that ensues in response to excessive activin levels is fully reversible. These findings highlight the therapeutic potential of targeting activins in cachexia.