Do skeletal muscle composition and gene expression as well as acute exercise-induced serum adaptations in older adults depend on fitness status?

Daniel A. Bizjak, Martina Zügel, Uwe Schumann, Mark A. Tully, Dhayana Dallmeier, Michael Denkinger, Jürgen M. Steinacker

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4 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Inactive physical behavior among the elderly is one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, immobility and increased all-cause mortality. We aimed to answer the question whether or not circulating and skeletal muscle biomarkers are differentially expressed depending on fitness status in a group of elderly individuals. Methods: Twenty-eight elderly individuals (73.36 ± 5.46 years) participated in this exploratory study after participating as part of the multinational SITLESS-clinical trial (implementation of self-management and exercise programs over 16 weeks). A cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPX) and resting skeletal muscle biopsy were performed to determine individual physiological performance capacity. Participants were categorized into a high physical fitness group (HPF) and a low physical fitness group (LPF) depending on peak oxygen uptake (VO 2peak). Serum blood samples were taken before (pre) and after (post) CPX and were examined regarding serum BDNF, HSP70, Kynurenine, Irisin and Il-6 concentrations. Skeletal muscle tissue was analyzed by silver staining to determine the myosin heavy chain (MyHC) composition and selected genes by qRT-PCR. Results: HPF showed lower body weight and body fat, while skeletal muscle mass and oxygen uptake at the first ventilatory threshold (VO 2T1) did not differ between groups. There were positive associations between VO 2peak and VO 2VT1 in HPF and LPF. MyHC isoform quantification revealed no differences between groups. qRT-PCR showed higher expression of BDNF and BRCA1 in LPF skeletal muscle while there were no differences in other examined genes regarding energy metabolism. Basal serum concentrations of Irisin were higher in HPF compared to LPF with a trend towards higher values in BDNF and HSP70 in HPF. Increases in Il-6 in both groups were observed post. Conclusions: Although no association between muscle composition/VO 2peak with fitness status in older people was detected, higher basal Irisin serum levels in HPF revealed slightly beneficial molecular serum and muscle adaptations. Trial registration:, NCT02629666. Registered 19 November 2015.

Original languageEnglish
Article number697
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. This study was part of the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 634270. The funding body had no role in the collection, analysis, interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript.

Funding Information:
The authors thank Pia B?rger, Jasmine-Leonike Buhl, Nadine Rolser and the SITLESS-Study-group (Dietrich Rothenbacher, Nicole Blackburn, Paolo Caserotti, Maria Gin? Garriga, Mathias Skj?dt, Laura Coll Planas, Jason Wilson) for invaluable technical assistance and study support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Physical fitness
  • Sedentary behavior
  • Health services for older individuals
  • Skeletal muscle
  • Molecular adaptations


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