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FEATURE ARTICLE

Exercise Controls Gene Expression

The activity level of skeletal muscle modulates a range of genes that produce dramatic molecular changes—and keep us healthy

P. Darrell Neufer, Frank Booth

Figure 1. Skeletal muscle...Click to Enlarge Image

Most people think of skeletal muscle as the tissue that makes us move, and when they think of skeletal muscle and exercise, they think of Olympians. Both perceptions grossly oversimplify this most plentiful of all tissues in the human body. Genes in skeletal muscle are exquisitely responsive to changes in loads, in some cases responding with protein production within minutes of the onset of exercise. The actions of these proteins explain adaptations to exercise as wide ranging as long-term improvements in fitness and extremely short-term protection of the nervous system from glycogen depletion. Further, their absence in sedentary people may also help cause obesity, type-2 diabetes and even some cancers. The authors hypothesize that these systems, refined through millennia in our hunter-gatherer ancestors, have become maladaptive in the past few centuries as our physical activity levels have plummeted.


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