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There is a global epidemic of obesity, and obesity is known to inhibit AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activity and impairs myogenesis. Myogenin mediates the fusion of myoblasts into myotubes, a critical step in myogenesis. We observed that inhibition of AMPK1 downregulates myogenin expression and myogenesis, but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. We postulated that AMPK regulates myogenin expression through phosphorlytion of histone deacetylase 5 (HDAC5). In C2C12 cells, HDAC5 knockdown increased while HDAC5 stablization by MC1568 reduced myogenin expression. Consistently, using luciferase assay, we observed that myogenin promoter activity was negatively regulated by HDAC5. Using RNA interference and primary myoblasts prepared from wild-type and AMPK1 knockout mice, we further demonstrate that AMPK1 regulates HDAC5 phosphorylation at Ser 259 and 498. Mutation of these two Ser to Ala in HDAC5 abolished the regulatory role of AMPK1 on myogenin expression, clearly showing the necessity of these phosphorylation sites in mediating myogenin expression. In aggregate, these data show that AMPK inhibition downregulates myogenin transcription and myogenesis through phosphorylation of HDAC5, mediated mainly by AMPK1. These data demonstrate that AMPK is a key molecular target for promoting myogenesis and muscular regeneration. Because drugs activating AMPK activity, such as metformin, are widely available, our finding has critical clinical implications to ensure proper muscle development and regeneration in obese subjects and under other pathophysiological conditions where AMPK activity is attenuated. © 2013 the American Physiological Society.

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American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology