The loss of skeletal muscle function occurs with age but the reason why there are differences in the rate and magnitude of loss between females and males is not clear. Losses in women are likely related to changes in ovarian hormones in addition to aging but mechanistic effects of these hormones on skeletal muscle have not been elucidated. The overall goal of the studies outlined in this application is to determine hormone-mediated mechanisms that contribute to muscle strength loss in aged females. Estradiol is the crucial ovarian hormone that affects the function of the key contractile protein, myosin, which in turn affects muscle strength in young adult female mice but estradiol's effects on muscle in aged female mice are unknown. Thus, the first aim of this application is to determine the extent to which estradiol treatment improves myosin function and muscle strength in ovarian-failed, aged mice. Estradiol treatment will be evaluated in various models of estradiol deficiency so that any age-related differential effects of estradiol on myosin and muscle functions will be revealed. Extensive functional analyses will include voluntary muscle performance, maximal in vivo lower-leg muscle strength, contractile capacity of isolated muscles, and molecular structure-function analyses of myosin.
The second aim of this application is to determine if estradiol is beneficial to myosin and muscle strength independent of the physical activity level. The direct effects of estradiol on skeletal muscle are imperative to determine because the loss of and treatment with estradiol occurs systemically and as such, non-muscle tissue is affected and could influence muscle through indirect mechanisms. For example, physical activity of rodents is influenced by estradiol status and could indirectly impact muscle strength.
The third aim of this application is to test the hypothesis that the beneficial effects of estradiol on myosin and muscle function are mediated by nuclear estrogen receptors, which regulate oxidative stress-related genes. To accomplish this, estrogen receptors will be blocked and it is predicted that this pharmacological intervention will negate all of estradiol's beneficial effects on myosin and muscle. Next, a panel of genes that are related to oxidative stress and antioxidant defense systems in estradiol-deficient and estradiol-replete mice will be probed. The rationale behind this is that myosin is susceptible to oxidation and that several oxidative stress-related genes are modulated by estradiol in non-muscle tissues. At the conclusion of these studies we will know the extent to which age-related estradiol deficiency causes a decline in muscle strength due to decrements in myosin function and whether estradiol treatment reverses these declines through genomic mechanisms. The long-term objective of our research is to elucidate the overall mechanisms underlying age- and hormone-related skeletal muscle functional losses and to utilize this knowledge to devise optimal strategies for preventing, reversing, or at least slowing the progression of weakness that occurs with age. Skeletal muscle weakness is a significant health concern because it directly contributes to a decreased qualit of life, particularly for older women.

Public Health Relevance

Aging results in muscle weakness that impacts the quality of life of older adults. The research described in this application will determine how estradiol treatment can benefit estrogen-deficient females by improving muscle strength.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Aging Systems and Geriatrics Study Section (ASG)
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Williams, John
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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Physical Medicine & Rehab
Schools of Medicine
United States
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