Do skeletal muscle phenotypic characteristics of Xhosa and Caucasian endurance runners differ when matched for training and racing distances?

Tertius A Kohn, Birgitta Essén-Gustavsson, Kathryn H Myburgh
Journal of Applied Physiology 2007, 103 (3): 932-40
Although East African black athletes dominate endurance running events, it is unknown whether black and white endurance runners with similar racing ability, matched for training, may differ in their skeletal muscle biochemical phenotype. Thirteen Xhosa (XR) and 13 Caucasian (CR) endurance runners were recruited and matched for 10-km performance, average preferred racing distance (PRD(A)), and training volume. Submaximal and maximal exercise tests were done, and vastus lateralis muscle biopsies were taken. XR were significantly lighter and shorter than CR athletes but had similar maximum oxygen consumption corrected for body weight and peak treadmill speed (PTS). XR had lower plasma lactate concentrations at 80% PTS (P < 0.05) compared with CR. Also, XR had more type IIA (42.4 +/- 9.2 vs. 31.3 +/- 11.5%, P < 0.05) and less type I fibers (47.8 +/- 10.9 vs. 63.1 +/- 13.2%, P < 0.05), although oxidative enzyme activities did not differ. Furthermore, XR compared with CR had higher lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity in homogenate muscle samples (383 +/- 99 vs. 229 +/- 85 mumol.min(-1).g dry weight(-1), P < 0.05) and in both type IIa (P < 0.05) and type I (P = 0.05) single-fiber pools. A marked difference (P < 0.05) in the composition of LDH isoform content was found between the two groups with XR having higher levels of LDH(5-4) isoforms (skeletal muscle isozymes; LDH-M) than CR, which was not accounted for by fiber-type differences alone. These results confirm differences in muscle phenotype and physiological characteristics, particularly associated with high-intensity running.

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