Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Discovery of a 'conductor' in muscle development may impact future treatments of muscular diseases

Dr. Jean-François Côté
Dr. Jean-François Côté
A team of researchers, led by Jean-François Côté, researcher at the IRCM, has identified a "conductor" in the development of muscle tissue. The researchers say that ther discovery may an important impact on the treatment of muscular diseases such as myopathies and muscular dystrophies.

"For several years, we have been studying myogenesis, a process by which muscles are formed during embryonic development. During the last step of this process, muscle cells called myoblasts align and fuse together to form muscle fibers." said Jean-François Côté, PhD, Director of the Cytoskeletal Organization and Cell Migration research unit at the IRCM.

The fusion of myoblasts is a critical step in the formation of embryonic muscle fibers as it determines muscle size, among other things. This process is also important in adult life because muscle stem cells fuse with existing fibers to achieve muscle growth and help regenerate damaged muscles. However, until now, fusion remained a poorly understood step within the scientific community.

"We were able to identify the receptor BAI3, a protein at the surface of myoblasts, as one of the crucial missing links in the fusion of muscle cells. In fact, this receptor acts much like an orchestra conductor by activating a signalling pathway required for this important process." added Dr. Côté.

In 2008, Dr. Côté's team explained the role of the DOCK1 and DOCK5 genes in the development of muscle tissue by showing that these two genes were critical regulators of the fusion process in mice. In their most recent study, the researchers confirmed receptor BAI3's essential role by blocking its interaction with the DOCK signalling pathway. They discovered that, as a result, myoblast fusion was also blocked.

"Our scientific breakthrough will undoubtedly have a translational research application on the regeneration of tissue from stem cells, given that a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of fusion are required for the development of such therapies. This could therefore have an impact on the treatment of muscular diseases, including myopathies and muscular dystrophies." concluded Dr. Côté.

The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

- Hamoud N, Tran V, Croteau LP, Kania A, & Côté JF (2014). G-protein coupled receptor BAI3 promotes myoblast fusion in vertebrates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PMID: 24567399

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