Background The role of Numb, a protein that is important for cell fate and development was investigated in adult skeletal muscle in mice using a conditional, inducible knockout (cKO) model.
Methods Numb expression was evaluated by Western blot. Numb localization was determined by confocal microscopy. The effects of cKO of Numb and the closely-related gene Numb-like in skeletal muscle fibers was evaluated by in-situ physiology; transmission and focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy; 3-dimensional reconstruction of mitochondrial; lipidomics; and bulk RNA-sequencing. Additional studies using primary mouse myotubes investigated the effects the effects of Numb knockdown on cell fusion, mitochondrial function and calcium transients.
Results Numb protein expression was reduced by ∼70% (p < 0.01) at 24 as compared to 3 months of age. Numb was localized within muscle fibers as bands traversing fibers at regularly spaced intervals in close proximity to dihydropyridine receptors. The cKO of Numb and Numb-like reduced specific tetanic force by 36%, p < 0.01), altered mitochondrial spatial relationships to sarcomeric structures, increased Z-line spacing by 30% (p < 0.0001), perturbed sarcoplasmic reticulum organization and reduced mitochondrial volume by over 80% (p < 0.01). Only six genes were differentially expressed in cKO mice: Itga4, Sema7a, Irgm2, Vezf1, Mib1 and Tmem132a . Several lipid mediators derived from polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFAs) through lipoxygenases were upregulated in Numb cKO skeletal muscle; 12-HEPE was increased by ∼250% (p < 0.05) and 17,18-EpETE by ∼240% (p < 0.05). In mouse primary myotubes, Numb knock-down reduced cell fusion (∼20%, p < 0.01) and mitochondrial function and delayed the caffeine-induced rise in cytosolic calcium concentrations by more than 100% (p < 0.01).
Conclusions These findings implicate Numb as a critical factor in skeletal muscle structure and function which appear to be critical for calcium release; we therefore speculate Numb plays critical roles in excitation-contraction coupling, one of the putative targets of aged skeletal muscles. These findings provide new insights into the molecular underpinnings of the loss of muscle function observed with sarcopenia.