The early cellular signals associated with contractile activity initiate the activation and induction of transcription factors that regulate changes in skeletal muscle phenotype. The transcription factors Egr-1, Sp1, and serum response factor (SRF) are potentially important mediators of mitochondrial biogenesis based on the prevalence of binding sites for them in the promoter regions of genes encoding mitochondrial proteins, including PGC-1 alpha, the important regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis. Thus, to further define a role for transcription factors at the onset of contractile activity, we examined the time-dependent alterations in Egr-1, Sp1, and SRF mRNA and the levels in electrically stimulated mouse C(2)C(12) skeletal muscle cells. Early transient increases in Egr-1 mRNA levels within 30 min (P < 0.05) of contractile activity led to threefold increases (P < 0.05) in Egr-1 protein by 60 min. The increase in Egr-1 mRNA was not because of increased stability, as Egr-1 mRNA half-life after 30 min of stimulation showed only a 58% decline. Stimulation of muscle cells had no effect on Sp1 mRNA but led to progressive increases (P < 0.05) in SRF mRNA by 30 and 60 min. This was not matched by increases in SRF protein but occurred coincident with increases (P < 0.05) in SRF-serum response element DNA binding at 30 and 60 min as a result of SRF phosphorylation on serine-103. To assess the importance of the recovery period, 12 h of continuous contractile activity was compared with four successive 3-h bouts, with an intervening 21-h recovery period after each bout. Continuous contractile activity led to a twofold increase (P < 0.05) in Egr-1 mRNA, no change in SRF mRNA, and a 43% decrease in Sp1 mRNA expression. The recovery period prevented the decline in Sp1 mRNA, produced a decrease in Egr-1 mRNA, and had no effect on SRF mRNA. Thus continuous and intermittent contractile activity evoked different specific transcription factor expression patterns, which may ultimately contribute to divergent qualitative, or temporal patterns of, phenotypic adaptation in muscle.
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