Nuclear transcription factor κB activation and protein turnover adaptations in skeletal muscle of patients with progressive stages of lung cancer cachexia

Céline M. Op Den Kamp*, Ramon C. Langen, Frank J. Snepvangers, Chiel C. De Theije, Johanna M. Schellekens, Fabian Laugs, Anne Marie C. Dingemans, Annemie M. Schols

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)



Experimental models of cancer cachexia have indicated that systemic inflammation induces muscle-protein breakdown and wasting via muscular nuclear transcription factor κB (NF-κB) activation. This process may limit the efficacy of nutritional intervention. 


We assessed muscle NF-κB activity and protein turnover signaling in progressive stages of clinical lung cancer cachexia and assessed whether circulating factors can induce muscular NF-κB activity.


Patients with lung cancer precachexia (n = 10) and cachexia (n = 16) were cross-sectionally compared with 22 healthy control subjects. mRNA transcripts of muscle proteolytic (ubiquitin proteasome system and autophagy lysosomal pathway) and myogenic markers and protein expression of PI3K/Akt, myostatin, and autophagy signaling were measured. A multiplex analysis showed the systemic inflammatory status, whereas plasma exposure to stable NF-κB-luciferase-reporter muscle cells revealed NF-κB inducibility. 


Compared with healthy control subjects, cachectic patients had reduced (appendicular) muscle mass (-10%), muscle fiber atrophy (-27%), and decreased quadriceps strength (-31%). Subtle alterations in the muscle morphology were also detectable in precachectic patients, without changes in body composition. Despite increased Akt phosphorylation, downstream phosphosubstrates glycogen synthase kinase 3β, mammalian target of rapamycin, and Forkhead box protein were unaltered. The expression of autophagy effectors B cell lymphoma 2/adenovirus E1B 19-kDa protein-interacting protein 3 and microtubule-associated proteins 1A/1B light chain 3B gradually increased from precachectic to cachectic patients, without differences in E3 ubiquitin ligases. Systemic and local inflammation was evident in cachexia and intermediate in precachexia, but the plasma of both patients groups caused ex vivo muscle NF-κB activation. 


In lung cancer, muscular NF-κB activity is induced by factors contained within the circulation. Autophagy may contribute to increased muscle proteolysis in lung cancer cachexia, whereas the absence of downstream changes in phosphosubstrates despite increased Akt phosphorylation suggests impaired anabolic signaling that may require targeted nutritional intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-748
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes


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