Myostatin plays a fundamental role in regulating the size of skeletal muscles. To date, only a single myostatin gene and no splice variants have been identified in mammals. Here we describe the splicing of a cryptic intron that removes the coding sequence for the receptor binding moiety of sheep myostatin. The deduced polypeptide sequence of the myostatin splice variant (MSV) contains a 256 amino acid N-terminal domain, which is common to myostatin, and a unique C-terminus of 65 amino acids. Western immunoblotting demonstrated that MSV mRNA is translated into protein, which is present in skeletal muscles. To determine the biological role of MSV, we developed an MSV over-expressing C 2 C 12 myoblast line and showed that it proliferated faster than that of the control line in association with an increased abundance of the CDK2/Cyclin E complex in the nucleus. Recombinant protein made for the novel C-terminus of MSV also stimulated myoblast proliferation and bound to myostatin with high affinity as determined by surface plasmon resonance assay. Therefore, we postulated that MSV functions as a binding protein and antagonist of myostatin. Consistent with our postulate, myostatin protein was co-immunoprecipitated from skeletal muscle extracts with an MSV-specific antibody. MSV over-expression in C 2 C 12 myoblasts blocked myostatin-induced Smad2/3-dependent signaling, thereby confirming that MSV antagonizes the canonical myostatin pathway. Furthermore, MSV over-expression increased the abundance of MyoD, Myogenin and MRF4 proteins (P < 0.05), which indicates that MSV stimulates myogenesis through the induction of myogenic regulatory factors. To help elucidate a possible role in vivo, we observed that MSV protein was more abundant during early post-natal muscle development, while myostatin remained unchanged, which suggests that MSV may promote the growth of skeletal muscles. We conclude that MSV represents a unique example of intra-genic regulation in which a splice variant directly antagonizes the biological activity of the canonical gene product. © 2013 Jeanplong et al.
Jeanplong, F., Falconer, S. J., Oldham, J. M., Thomas, M., Gray, T. S., Hennebry, A., … McMahon, C. D. (2013). Discovery of a mammalian splice variant of myostatin that stimulates myogenesis. PLoS ONE, 8(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0081713