Evidence from a recent study indicates that glucocorticoids (GCs) mediate skeletal muscle proteolysis during sepsis via the GC receptor (GR) pathway. Attempts to identify the mechanisms regulating GR gene expression in skeletal muscle during sepsis have been hampered by the lack of an appropriate in vitro model system that can mimic in vivo septic conditions. In the present study, we report that GR gene transcription in L6 myocytes in vitro is up-regulated by treatment with sera from septic rats in a manner similar to that measured in septic rats in vivo. Sera from septic rats were collected from animals in which sepsis was induced by caecal ligation and puncture and from control rats that were sham-operated. Finally, by treating L6 myotubes with the GR antagonist RU 38486, thereby preventing sepsis-induced GR transcription, we confirmed that the possible septic effect on the GR was due to increased GCs. L6 myocytes treated with sera from septic rats might therefore be useful as an experimental model for identifying the molecular mechanisms by which the GR regulates muscle cachexia during sepsis. Furthermore, RU 38486 inhibited the sepsis-induced increase in total and myofibrillar energy-dependent protein breakdown rates in incubated extensor digitorum longus muscles from septic and sham-operated rats, as measured by release of tyrosine and 3-methylhistidine respectively. Our results demonstrate for the first time that sepsis induces GR transcription in skeletal muscle, and supports the hypothesis that the GC-induced proteolysis under sepsis is partially a consequence of GR activation.

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