Apoptosis is essential for skeletal muscle development and homeostasis. It has been frequently involved
in several muscle myopathies and sarcopenia, as well as in denervation, in disuse and acute strenuous or eccentric
In this work skeletal muscle cell death, induced in vitro by a variety of physical triggers, has been investigated.
C2C12 myoblasts and myotubes were exposed to UVB for 30 min, hyperthermia for 1 h at 43 °C, low pH for 3 h,
hypothermia for 4h at 0 - 6°C, all followed by 2 - 4 h recovery. Their effects have been analysed by means of morpho-
functional and molecular approaches.
After UVB radiation, hyperthermia and acidosis, morphological apoptotic features and in situ DNA fragmentation appeared, more evident
in myoblasts. Interestingly, apoptotic, non apoptotic and necrotic nuclei could be occasionally observed within the same myotube.
Low pH induced apoptosis and necrosis, both characterized by swollen nuclei.
In all these experimental conditions, the molecular investigations revealed a caspase pathway involvement in inducing cell death.
Differently, hypothermia showed a scant and initial chromatin margination, in the presence of a diffused autophagic component. In this
case, in situ DNA fragmentation and caspase activation have not been detected.
Myoblasts and myotubes appeared sensitive to physical agents, some of which, induced apoptotic cell death. Moreover, hypothermia exposure
seemed to enhance autophagic response, thus representing a way to delay trauma-correlated muscle inflammation.
This study permits to highlight skeletal muscle cell behavior in response to physical agents, by adding important information to muscle
cell death knowledge. UVB radiation and hyperthermia, usually used in clinical therapy, have also adverse effects on skeletal muscle
such as myonuclei loss and cell death, contributing to muscle mass decrease. Acidosis occurs physiologically in muscular fatigue, reducing
not only the athlete performance, but causing muscle cell damage or death too. Finally, hypothermia, stimulating the autophagic response,
could have a key role in muscle injury prevention.