Muscle NAD+ depletion and Serpina3n as molecular determinants of murine cancer cachexia—the effects of blocking myostatin and activins

J.J. Hulmi, F. Penna, N. Pöllänen, T.A. Nissinen, ... M. Lalowski


Cancer cachexia and muscle loss are associated with increased morbidity and mortality. In preclinical animal models, blocking activin receptor (ACVR) ligands has improved survival and prevented muscle wasting in cancer cachexia without an effect on tumour growth. However, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. This study aimed to identify cancer cachexia and soluble ACVR (sACVR) administration-evoked changes in muscle proteome.


Healthy and C26 tumour-bearing (TB) mice were treated with recombinant sACVR. The sACVR or PBS control were administered either prior to the tumour formation or by continued administration before and after tumour formation. Muscles were analysed by quantitative proteomics with further examination of mitochondria and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) metabolism. To complement the first prophylactic experiment, sACVR (or PBS) was injected as a treatment after tumour cell inoculation.


Muscle proteomics in TB cachectic mice revealed downregulated signatures for mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and increased acute phase response (APR). These were accompanied by muscle NAD+ deficiency, alterations in NAD+ biosynthesis including downregulation of nicotinamide riboside kinase 2 (Nrk2), and decreased muscle protein synthesis. The disturbances in NAD+metabolism and protein synthesis were rescued by treatment with sACVR. Across the whole proteome and APR, in particular, Serpina3n represented the most upregulated protein and the strongest predictor of cachexia. However, the increase in Serpina3n expression was associated with increased inflammation rather than decreased muscle mass and/or protein synthesis.


We present evidence implicating disturbed muscle mitochondrial OXPHOS proteome and NAD+ homeostasis in experimental cancer cachexia. Treatment of TB mice with a blocker of activin receptor ligands restores depleted muscle NAD+ and Nrk2, as well as decreased muscle protein synthesis. These results indicate putative new treatment therapies for cachexia and that although acute phase protein Serpina3n may serve as a predictor of cachexia, it more likely reflects a condition of elevated inflammation.