Authors: Dil Afroze and Ashok Kumar
Skeletal muscle is a highly plastic tissue in the human body that undergoes extensive adaptation in response to environmental cues, such as physical activity, metabolic perturbation, and disease conditions. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) plays a pivotal role in protein folding and calcium homeostasis in many mammalian cell types, including skeletal muscle. However, overload of misfolded or unfolded proteins in the ER lumen causes stress, which results in the activation of a signaling network called the unfolded protein response (UPR). The UPR is initiated by three ER transmembrane sensors: protein kinase R-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase, inositol requiring protein 1a, and activating transcription factor 6. The UPR restores ER homeostasis through modulating the rate of protein synthesis and augmenting the gene expression of many ER chaperones and regulatory proteins. However, chronic heightened ER stress can also lead to many pathological consequences including cell death. Accumulating evidence suggests that ER stress-induced UPR pathways play pivotal roles in the regulation of skeletal muscle mass and metabolic function in multiple conditions. They have also been found to be activated in skeletal muscle under catabolic states, degenerative muscle disorders, and various types of myopathies. In this article, we have discussed the recent advancements toward understanding the role and mechanisms through which ER stress and individual arms of the UPR regulate skeletal muscle physiology and pathology.