Loss of the nerve supply to skeletal muscle results in a relentless loss of muscle mass (atrophy) over time. The ability of insulin-like growth factor-1 to reduce atrophy resulting from denervation was examined after transection of the sciatic nerve in transgenic MLC/mIGF-1 mice that over-express mIGF-1 specifically in differentiated myofibres. The cross sectional area (CSA) of all types of myofibres and specifically type IIB myofibres was measured in tibialis anterior muscles from transgenic and wild-type mice at 28 days after denervation. There was a marked myofibre atrophy (similar to60%) in the muscles of wild-type mice over this time with increased numbers of myofibres with small CSA. In the muscles of MLC/mIGF-1 mice, over-expression of mIGF-1 reduced the rate of denervation induced myofibre atrophy by similar to30% and preserved myofibres with larger CSA, compared to wild-type muscles. It is proposed that the protective effect of mIGF-1 on denervated myofibres might be due to reduced protein breakdown. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.