Follistatin is a functional antagonist of several members of the TGF-beta family of secreted signaling factors, including myostatin, the most powerful inhibitor of muscle growth characterized to date. Myostatin inhibition offers a novel therapeutic strategy for muscular dystrophy by restoring skeletal muscle mass and suppressing the progression of muscle degeneration. To assess the potential benefits of follistatin in treating muscle degenerative diseases, we examined the expression of myostatin and follistatin in Mdx mice, a model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and in B10 mice as a control. Our results demonstrated a temporary and coincident expression of follistatin and myostatin in both mouse strains, but this expression was significantly higher in Mdx mice than in B10 mice. The maximum expression of follistatin and myostatin in the presence of restoring necrotic muscle was detected 4 weeks after birth in Mdx mice. Interestingly, during the stage of complete regeneration, the absence of myostatin and follistatin proteins and a marked decrease in the expression of both genes were observed 9 weeks after birth in both mouse strains. These findings suggest that follistatin not only blocks myostatin but also allows other activators to function in muscle development, emphasizing that follistatin could be a very potent molecule in combating muscle loss during dystrophies and muscle ageing, disuse, or denervation.
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