The maintenance of skeletal muscle mass is critical for sustaining health; however, the mechanisms responsible for muscle loss with aging and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, are poorly understood. We found that expression of a member of the AMPK-related kinase family, the SNF1-AMPK-related kinase (SNARK, also known as NUAK2), increased with muscle cell differentiation. SNARK expression increased in skeletal muscles from young mice exposed to metabolic stress and in muscles from healthy older human subjects. The regulation of SNARK expression in muscle with differentiation and physiological stress suggests that SNARK may function in the maintenance of muscle mass. Consistent with this hypothesis, decreased endogenous SNARK expression (using siRNA) in cultured muscle cells resulted in increased apoptosis and decreased cell survival under conditions of metabolic stress. Likewise, muscle-specific transgenic animals expressing a SNARK dominant-negative inactive mutant (SDN) had increased myonuclear apoptosis and activation of apoptotic mediators in muscle. Moreover, animals expressing SDN had severe, age-accelerated muscle atrophy and increased adiposity, consistent with sarcopenic obesity. Reduced SNARK activity, in vivo and in vitro, caused downregulation of the Rho kinase signaling pathway, a key mediator of cell survival. These findings reveal a critical role for SNARK in myocyte survival and the maintenance of muscle mass with age.


Sarah J. Lessard, Donato A. Rivas, Kawai So, Ho-Jin Koh, André Lima Queiroz, Michael F. Hirshman, Roger A. Fielding, Laurie J. Goodyear


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