Exercise and caffeine boost muscle-building genes in the same wayBy Connie Wan, P.h.D | August 20th, 2019
Human muscles are plastic. Muscle adapts to what we do. If we don’t use it, we lose it. Researchers, reporting in Cell Metabolism, have found that when healthy but inactive men and women exercise for a matter of minutes, activity produces a rather immediate change to their DNA by ramping up muscle building genes. Perhaps even more tantalizing, the study suggests that the caffeine might also influence muscle in essentially the same way.
The underlying genetic code in human muscle isn’t changed with exercise. The DNA changes observed in the study are known as epigenetic modifications, which involve the gain or loss of chemical marks on DNA. These gain or loss of chemical markers, a phenomenon known as methylations, serves to turn off or on the gene.
The study shows that the DNA within skeletal muscle taken from people after a burst of exercise bears fewer chemical marks (meaning fewer methylation) than it did before exercise. Those changes take place in stretches of DNA that are involved in turning “on” genes that are important for muscles’ adaptation to exercise. Those modifications to the DNA at these precise locations directly relate to the genetic reprogramming of muscle, which are responsible for the structural and metabolic benefits of exercise including building muscle strength and increasing caloric burn.
Interestingly, when the researchers made muscles contract in lab dishes, they saw a similar loss of DNA methyl groups, i.e., turning on the skeletal muscle genes. Exposure of isolated muscle to caffeine had the same effect. Specifically, the study shows that caffeine mimics the muscle contraction that comes with exercise.
The study means that alter our genomes for better health may be only a jog away. And for those who can’t exercise, the new findings might point the way to medicines (caffeinated ones) with similar benefits.
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Journal Reference:Romain Barrès, Jie Yan, Brendan Egan, Jonas Thue Treebak, Morten Rasmussen, Tomas Fritz, Kenneth Caidahl, Anna Krook, Donal J. O’Gorman, Juleen R. Zierath. Acute Exercise Remodels Promoter Methylation in Human Skeletal Muscle. Cell Metabolism, 2012; 15 (3): 405 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2012.01.001