Yogev, O., Williams, V.C., Hinits, Y., and Hughes, S.M. (2013) eIF4EBP3L acts as a gatekeeper of TORC1 in activity-dependent muscle growth by specifically regulating Mef2ca translational initiation. PLoS Biology. 11(10):e1001679.
Muscle fiber size is activity-dependent and clinically important in ageing, bed-rest, and cachexia, where muscle weakening leads to disability, prolonged recovery times, and increased costs. Inactivity causes muscle wasting by triggering protein degradation and may simultaneously prevent protein synthesis. During development, muscle tissue grows by several mechanisms, including hypertrophy of existing fibers. As in other tissues, the TOR pathway plays a key role in promoting muscle protein synthesis by inhibition of eIF4EBPs (eukaryotic Initiation Factor 4E Binding Proteins), regulators of the translational initiation. Here, we tested the role of TOR-eIF4EBP in a novel zebrafish muscle inactivity model. Inactivity triggered up-regulation of eIF4EBP3L (a zebrafish homolog of eIF4EBP3) and diminished myosin and actin content, myofibrilogenesis, and fiber growth. The changes were accompanied by preferential reduction of the muscle transcription factor Mef2c, relative to Myod and Vinculin. Polysomal fractionation showed that Mef2c decrease was due to reduced translation of mef2ca mRNA. Loss of Mef2ca function reduced normal muscle growth and diminished the reduction in growth caused by inactivity. We identify eIF4EBP3L as a key regulator of Mef2c translation and protein level following inactivity; blocking eIF4EBP3L function increased Mef2ca translation. Such blockade also prevented the decline in mef2ca translation and level of Mef2c and slow myosin heavy chain proteins caused by inactivity. Conversely, overexpression of active eIF4EBP3L mimicked inactivity by decreasing the proportion of mef2ca mRNA in polysomes, the levels of Mef2c and slow myosin heavy chain, and myofibril content. Inhibiting the TOR pathway without the increase in eIF4EBP3L had a lesser effect on myofibrilogenesis and muscle size. These findings identify eIF4EBP3L as a key TOR-dependent regulator of muscle fiber size in response to activity. We suggest that by selectively inhibiting translational initiation of mef2ca and other mRNAs, eIF4EBP3L reprograms the translational profile of muscle, enabling it to adjust to new environmental conditions.