Background: Post exertional muscle fatigue is a key feature in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Abnormalities of skeletal muscle function have been identified in some but not all patients with CFS. To try to limit potential confounders that might contribute to this clinical heterogeneity, we developed a novel in vitro system that allows comparison of AMP kinase (AMPK) activation and metabolic responses to exercise in cultured skeletal muscle cells from CFS patients and control subjects.
Methods: Skeletal muscle cell cultures were established from 10 subjects with CFS and 7 age-matched controls, subjected to electrical pulse stimulation (EPS) for up to 24h and examined for changes associated with exercise.
Results: In the basal state, CFS cultures showed increased myogenin expression but decreased IL6 secretion during differentiation compared with control cultures. Control cultures subjected to 16h EPS showed a significant increase in both AMPK phosphorylation and glucose uptake compared with unstimulated cells. In contrast, CFS cultures showed no increase in AMPK phosphorylation or glucose uptake after 16h EPS.
However, glucose uptake remained responsive to insulin in the CFS cells pointing to an exercise-related defect. IL6 secretion in response to EPS was significantly reduced in CFS compared with control cultures at all time points measured.
Conclusion: EPS is an effective model for eliciting muscle contraction and the metabolic changes associated with exercise in cultured skeletal muscle cells. We found four main differences in cultured skeletal muscle cells from subjects with CFS; increased myogenin expression in the basal state, impaired activation of AMPK, impaired stimulation of glucose uptake and diminished release of IL6. The retention of these differences in cultured muscle cells from CFS subjects points to a genetic/epigenetic mechanism, and provides a system to identify novel therapeutic targets.
Abnormalities of AMPK Activation and Glucose Uptake in Cultured Skeletal Muscle Cells from Individuals with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, by Audrey E. Brown, David E. Jones, Mark Walker, Julia L. Newton in PLOSone [Published: April 2, 2015]
Commentary by MERUK: Muscle cell abnormalities