Si Chen ab, Jiedong Chen
Age-related impairment of autophagy accelerates muscle loss and lead to sarcopenia. Betaine can delay muscle loss as a dietary methyl donor via increasing S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM, a crucial metabolite for autophagy regulation) in methionion cycle. However, whether betaine can regulate autophagy level to attenuate degeneration in aging muscle remains unclear. Herein, male C57BL/6J young mice (YOU, 2-month-old), old mice (OLD, 15-month-old), and 2%-betaine-treated old mice (BET, 15-month-old) were employed and raised for 12 weeks. All mice underwent body composition examination and grip strength test before being sacrificed. Betaine alleviated age-related decline in muscle mass and strength. Meanwhile, betaine preserved the expression autophagy markers (Atg5, Atg7, LC3-II, and Beclin1) both at transcriptional and translational level during the aging process. RNA-sequencing results generated from mice gastrocnemius muscle found Mettl21c, a SAM-dependent autophagy-regulating methyltransferase, was significantly higher expressed in BET and YOU group. Results were further validated by qPCR and Western bloting. In vitro, C2C12 cells with or without Mettl21c RNA interference were treated different concentration of betaine (0mM, 10mM) under methionine-starved condition. Compared with control group, betaine upregulated autophagy markers expression and autophagy flux. By increasing the SAM level, betaine facilitated trimethylation of p97 (Mettl21c downstream effector) into valosin-containing protein (VCP). Increased VCP promoted autophagic turnover of cellular components, ATP production, and cell differentiation. Knock-down of Metthl21c dismissed improvements mentioned above. Collectively, betaine could enhance aged skeletal muscle autophagy level via Mettl21c/p97/VCP axis to delay muscle loss.