(-)-Epicatechin and its colonic metabolite hippuric acid protect against dexamethasone-induced atrophy in skeletal muscle cells

Sophie J. Edwards, Steven Carter, Thomas Nicholson, Sophie Louise Allen, Paul T. Morgan, Simon Wyn Jones, Catarina Rendeiro, Leigh Breen

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8 Citations (SciVal)


Cocoa flavanols have been shown to improve muscle function and may offer a novel approach to protect against muscle atrophy. Hippuric acid (HA) is a colonic metabolite of (-)-epicatechin (EPI), the primary bioactive compound of cocoa, and may be responsible for the associations between cocoa supplementation and muscle metabolic alterations. Accordingly, we investigated the effects of EPI and HA upon skeletal muscle morphology and metabolism within an in vitro model of muscle atrophy. Under atrophy-like conditions (24h 100μM dexamethasone (DEX)), C2C12 myotube diameter was significantly greater following co-incubation with either 25μM HA (11.19±0.39μm) or 25μM EPI (11.01±0.21μm) compared to the vehicle control (VC; 7.61±0.16μm, both P < .001). In basal and leucine-stimulated states, there was a significant reduction in myotube protein synthesis (MPS) rates following DEX treatment in VC (P = .024). Interestingly, co-incubation with EPI or HA abrogated the DEX-induced reductions in MPS rates, whereas no significant differences versus control treated myotubes (CTL) were noted. Furthermore, co-incubation with EPI or HA partially attenuated the increase in proteolysis seen in DEX-treated cells, preserving LC3 α/β II:I and caspase-3 protein expression in atrophy-like conditions. The protein content of PGC1α, ACC, and TFAM (regulators of mitochondrial function) were significantly lower in DEX-treated versus. CTL cells (all P < .050). However, co-incubation with EPI or HA was unable to prevent these DEX-induced alterations. For the first time we demonstrate that EPI and HA exert anti-atrophic effects on C2C12 myotubes, providing novel insight into the association between flavanol supplementation and favourable effects on muscle health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109150
JournalJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Early online date28 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a studentship to S.J.E from the BBSRC Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership.


  • dexamethasone
  • epicatechin
  • flavanols
  • hippuric acid
  • mitochondria
  • Muscle atrophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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