The role and regulation of the pleiotropic cytokine erythropoietin (EPO) in skeletal muscle are controversial. EPO exerts its effects by binding its specific receptor (EPO-R), which activates intracellular signaling and gene transcription in response to internal and external stress signals. EPO is suggested to play a direct role in myogenesis via the EPO-R, but several studies have questioned the effect of EPO treatment in muscle in vitro and in vivo. The lack of certainty surrounding the use of nonspecific EPO-R antibodies contributes to the ambiguity of the field. Our study demonstrates that the EPO-R gene and protein are expressed at each stage of mouse C2C12 and human skeletal muscle cell proliferation and differentiation and validates a specific antibody for the detection of the EPO-R protein. However, in our experimental conditions, EPO treatment had no effect on mouse C2C12 and human muscle cell proliferation, differentiation, protein synthesis or EPO-R expression. While an increase in Akt and MAPK phosphorylation was observed, we demonstrate that this effect resulted from the stress caused by changing medium and not from EPO treatment. We therefore suggest that skeletal muscle EPO-R might be present in a nonfunctional form, or too lowly expressed to play a role in muscle cell function.
- Skeletal muscle