Age-related sarcopenia constitutes an important health problem associated with adverse outcomes. Sarcopenia is closely associated with fat infiltration in muscle, which is attributable to interstitial mesenchymal progenitors. Mesenchymal progenitors are nonmyogenic in nature but are required for homeostatic muscle maintenance. However, the underlying mechanism of mesenchymal progenitor-dependent muscle maintenance is not clear, nor is the precise role of mesenchymal progenitors in sarcopenia. Here, we show that mice genetically engineered to specifically deplete mesenchymal progenitors exhibited phenotypes markedly similar to sarcopenia, including muscle weakness, myofiber atrophy, alterations of fiber types, and denervation at neuromuscular junctions. Through searching for genes responsible for mesenchymal progenitor-dependent muscle maintenance, we found that Bmp3b is specifically expressed in mesenchymal progenitors, whereas its expression level is significantly decreased during aging or adipogenic differentiation. The functional importance of BMP3B in maintaining myofiber mass as well as muscle-nerve interaction was demonstrated using knockout mice and cultured cells treated with BMP3B. Furthermore, the administration of recombinant BMP3B in aged mice reversed their sarcopenic phenotypes. These results reveal previously unrecognized mechanisms by which the mesenchymal progenitors ensure muscle integrity and suggest that age-related changes in mesenchymal progenitors have a considerable impact on the development of sarcopenia.
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