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Mark E Cleasby, Pauline M Jamieson, and Philip J Atherton

Insulin resistance (IR) in skeletal muscle is a key defect mediating the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes, a disease that typically affects people in later life. Sarcopenia (age-related loss of muscle mass and quality) is a risk factor for a number of frailty-related conditions that occur in the elderly. In addition, a syndrome of ‘sarcopenic obesity’ (SO) is now increasingly recognised, which is common in older people and is applied to individuals that simultaneously show obesity, IR and sarcopenia. Such individuals are at an increased risk of adverse health events compared with those who are obese or sarcopenic alone. However, there are no licenced treatments for sarcopenia or SO, the syndrome is poorly defined clinically and the mechanisms that might explain a common aetiology are not yet well characterised. In this review, we detail the nature and extent of the clinical syndrome, highlight some of the key physiological processes that are dysregulated and discuss some candidate molecular pathways that could be implicated in both metabolic and anabolic defects in skeletal muscle, with an eye towards future therapeutic options. In particular, the potential roles of Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin signalling, AMP-activated protein kinase, myostatin, urocortins and vitamin D are discussed.

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Stephen P Ashcroft, Gareth Fletcher, Ashleigh M Philp, Carl Jenkinson, Shatarupa Das, Philip M Hansbro, Philip J Atherton, and Andrew Philp

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with symptoms of skeletal muscle myopathy including muscle weakness and fatigue. Recently, vitamin D-related metabolites have been linked to the maintenance of mitochondrial function within skeletal muscle. However, current evidence is limited to in vitro models and the effects of diet-induced vitamin D deficiency upon skeletal muscle mitochondrial function in vivo have received little attention. In order to examine the role of vitamin D in the maintenance of mitochondrial function in vivo, we utilised an established model of diet-induced vitamin D deficiency in C57BL/6J mice. Mice were either fed a control diet (2200 IU/kg i.e. vitamin D replete) or a vitamin D-deplete (0 IU/kg) diet for periods of 1, 2 and 3 months. Gastrocnemius muscle mitochondrial function and ADP sensitivity were assessed via high-resolution respirometry and mitochondrial protein content via immunoblotting. As a result of 3 months of diet-induced vitamin D deficiency, respiration supported via complex I + II (CI + IIP) and the electron transport chain (ETC) were 35 and 37% lower when compared to vitamin D-replete mice (P < 0.05). Despite functional alterations, citrate synthase activity, AMPK phosphorylation, mitofilin, OPA1 and ETC subunit protein content remained unchanged in response to dietary intervention (P > 0.05). In conclusion, we report that 3 months of diet-induced vitamin D deficiency reduced skeletal muscle mitochondrial respiration in C57BL/6J mice. Our data, when combined with previous in vitro observations, suggest that vitamin D-mediated regulation of mitochondrial function may underlie the exacerbated muscle fatigue and performance deficits observed during vitamin D deficiency.