Researchers identify precision medicine-based power switch for muscles.
It is known that strenuous exercise translates into better endurance, however, it is unclear in precision medicine terms which specific proteins trigger the health benefits gained through exercising. Now, a study from researchers at Salk Institute shows that a protein known as ERRγ (ERR gamma) helps make endurance exercise possible by gearing up the energy-creating cellular power plants known as mitochondria, creating more blood vessels to bring in oxygen, take away toxins and help repair damage associated with muscle use. The team state that, in effect, they have found the power switch for skeletal muscles which makes ERRγ a potential therapeutic target for conditions with weakened muscles. The opensource study is published in the journal cell.
Previous studies show that the PGC1α and PGC1β proteins stimulate 20 other proteins associated with skeletal muscle energy and endurance exercise, including one from the ERRγ. In turn, ERRγ, a hormone receptor, acts to turn on genes. The current study investigates ERRγ’s role in skeletal muscle energy production and how that impacts physical endurance.
The current study utilises mice without PGC1α/β to measure how ERRγ and PGC1 act independently, as well as how they function in combination. Results show that losing PGC1 had a negative impact on muscle energy and endurance, however, boosting ERRγ restored function. Data findings show that ERRγ is essential to energy production, activating genes which create more mitochondria.
The lab state they also show that increased ERRγ in PGC1-deficient mice boosted their exercise performance. They go on to add that by measuring voluntary wheel running, they found that increasing ERRγ produced a five-fold increase in time spent exercising compared to mice with no PGC1 and normal ERRγ levels.
The team surmise they have identified the power switch for muscles, namely ERRγ which increases the number of mitochondria in skeletal muscle cells, and increases muscular blood flow. For the future the researchers state that by increasing mitochondria energy output, ERRγ can actually rescue damaged muscle, and if they can identify small molecules which specifically target ERRγ, they hope to help people with muscular dystrophy and other skeletal muscle conditions.
Source: Salk Institute