Changes in myosin heavy chain mRNA and protein expression in human skeletal muscle with age and endurance exercise training

Kevin R Short, Janet L Vittone, Maureen L Bigelow, David N Proctor, Jill M Coenen-Schimke, Paul Rys, K Sreekumaran Nair
Journal of Applied Physiology 2005, 99 (1): 95-102
Aging is associated with reduced muscle strength and atrophy of type II muscle fibers. Muscle fiber type and contractile function are primarily determined by myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoforms. There are few data available on the effects of aging on MHC isoform expression in humans. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that MHC isoform protein composition and mRNA abundance would favor a fast-to-slow isoform shift with aging and in response to endurance exercise training. Muscle biopsies were obtained from previously sedentary, healthy men and women, aged 21-87 yr before (n = 77) and after (n = 65) 16 wk of bicycle training (up to 45 min at 80% peak heart rate, 3-4 days/wk). At baseline, MHC I mRNA was unchanged with age, whereas IIa and IIx declined by 14 and 10% per decade, respectively (P < 0.001). MHC IIa and IIx protein declined by 3 and 1% per decade with a reciprocal increase in MHC I (P < 0.05). After training, MHC I and IIa mRNA increased by 61 and 99%, respectively, and IIx decreased by 50% (all P < 0.001). The increase in MHC I mRNA was positively associated with age, whereas the changes in MHC IIa and IIx mRNA were similar across age. MHC I protein increased by 6% and was positively related to age, whereas IIx decreased by 5% and was inversely related to age. These results suggest that the altered expression of MHC isoforms with aging is transcriptionally regulated. In response to endurance exercise, regulation of MHC isoform transcripts remains robust in older muscle, but this did not result in corresponding changes in MHC protein expression.

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