Researchers identify precision medicine-based power switch for muscles.

Strenuous exercise in moderation translates into better endurance, however, it is unclear in precise medical terms which specific proteins trigger the health benefits gained through this exertion.  Now, a study from researchers at Salk Institute shows a protein called ERRγ (ERR gamma) helps make endurance exercise possible by gearing up the energy-creating cellular power plants known as mitochondria, to bring in more oxygen and regenerate muscles after use. The team states they have found the power switch for skeletal muscles making ERRγ a potential therapeutic target for conditions involving weakened muscles.  The opensource study is published in the journal Cell.

Previous studies have shown the PGC1α and PGC1β proteins stimulate twenty other proteins associated with skeletal muscle energy and endurance exercise.  This list includes ERRγ, a hormone receptor, which then turns on genes salient to endurance. The current study investigates ERRγ’s role in skeletal muscle energy production and how it impacts physical endurance.

The current study utilizes mice without PGC1α/β to measure how ERRγ and PGC1 act independently, as well as how they function in combination.  Results show losing PGC1 had a negative impact on muscle energy and endurance, however, boosting ERRγ restored function. Data findings show ERRγ is essential to energy production, activating genes to create more mitochondria.

The lab states they also show increased ERRγ in PGC1-deficient mice boosted their exercise performance. They go on to add by measuring voluntary wheel running, they found increasing ERRγ produced a five-fold rise in time spent exercising compared to mice with no PGC1 and normal ERRγ levels.

The team surmises they have identified the power switch for muscles, responsible for increasing the number of mitochondria in skeletal muscle cells and muscle blood flow.  For the future, the researchers state they hope to help people with muscular dystrophy and other skeletal muscle conditions.

Source: Salk Institute

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