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1.  ACTN3 genotype, athletic status and lifecourse physical capability: meta-analysis of the published literature and findings from nine studies 
Human mutation  2011;32(9):1008-1018.
The ACTN3 R577X (rs1815739) genotype has been associated with athletic status and muscle phenotypes, though not consistently. Our objective was to conduct a meta-analysis of the published literature on athletic status and investigate its associations with physical capability in several new population-based studies. Relevant data were extracted from studies in the literature, comparing genotype frequencies between controls and sprint/power and endurance athletes. For lifecourse physical capability, data were used from two studies of adolescents and seven studies in the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) collaborative research programme, involving individuals aged between 53 and 90+ years. We found evidence from the published literature to support the hypothesis that in Europeans the RR genotype is more common among sprint/power athletes compared with their controls. There is currently no evidence that the X allele is advantageous to endurance athleticism. We found no association between R577X and grip strength (p-value=0.09, n=7672 in males; p-value=0.90, n=7839 in females), standing balance, timed get up and go or chair rises in our studies of physical capability. The ACTN3 R577X genotype is associated with sprint/power athletic status in Europeans, but does not appear to be associated with objective measures of physical capability in the general population.
PMCID: PMC3174315  PMID: 21542061
ACTN3; Actinin-3; athlete; aging; SNP; grip strength
2.  The ACTN3 R577X Polymorphism across Three Groups of Elite Male European Athletes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43132.
The ACTN3 R577X polymorphism (rs1815739) is a strong candidate to influence elite athletic performance. Yet, controversy exists in the literature owing to between-studies differences in the ethnic background and sample size of the cohorts, the latter being usually low, which makes comparisons difficult. In this case:control genetic study we determined the association between elite athletic status and the ACTN3 R577X polymorphism within three cohorts of European Caucasian men, i.e. Spanish, Polish and Russian [633 cases (278 elite endurance and 355 power athletes), and 808 non-athletic controls]. The odds ratio (OR) of a power athlete harbouring the XX versus the RR genotype compared with sedentary controls was 0.54 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.34–0.48; P = 0.006]. We also observed that the OR of an endurance athlete having the XX versus the RR genotype compared with power athletes was 1.88 (95%CI: 1.07–3.31; P = 0.028). In endurance athletes, the OR of a “world-class” competitor having the XX genotype versus the RR+RX genotype was 3.74 (95%CI: 1.08–12.94; P = 0.038) compared with those of a lower (“national”) competition level. No association (P>0.1) was noted between the ACTN3 R577X polymorphism and competition level (world-class versus national-level) in power athletes. Our data provide comprehensive support for the influence of the ACTN3 R577X polymorphism on elite athletic performance.
PMCID: PMC3420864  PMID: 22916217
3.  Prevalence of ACTN3 (the athlete gene) R577X polymorphism in Iranian population 
Ability of athletes in speed or endurance contests somehow is determined by inherited muscle fiber types. One of the important genes involved in sport genetics is ACTN3 that is located on chromosome 11q13-q14 and encodes α-actinin-3, which belongs to highly conserved family of α-actinin proteins. Genetic analysis of α-actinin-3 gene has showed a polymorphism R577X (rs1815739), which results in premature stop codon and leads to non functional α-actnin-3 protein. ACTN3 genotype can contribute to the performance in elite and endurance activities.
R577X polymorphism replaces arginine by stop codon. Individuals homozygous for R577 have full copy of α-actinin-3 and elite and power sprint athletes show significantly higher frequency of 577R allele. In the other hand, some studies represented that X allele have high level of frequency in endurance athletes. However, this data remains controversial Since there is no information about the frequency of ACTN3 genotype in our population therefore as the first step it is essential to determine the genetic background of Iranian population. The objective of this study was to genotype normal Iranian individuals to determine the prevalence of each allele in our population.
We used PCR-RFLP method for genotyping 210 normal individuals.
Total of 210 Iranian normal individuals for distribution of R577X and R alleles were genotyped. The different genotypes were as follow; 24% RR (50/210), 65%RX (136/210) and 11%XX (24/210), with allelic distribution of 0.56 and 0.44 for 577R and 577X alleles of ACTN3.
This allelic distribution for Iranian's is more close to Caucasian population, which is concurrent with the route of ancient human's migration from Iran Plateau toward Europe.
Our results showed no different patterns of allelic distribution among female and males, which was the same in other studies too, although some differences has been reported in the studies on athletes population.
PMCID: PMC3518978  PMID: 23285413
Sport Genetics; ACTN3; Iran
4.  The Association of Sport Performance with ACE and ACTN3 Genetic Polymorphisms: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54685.
Genetic polymorphism is suggested to be associated with human physical performance. The angiotensin I-converting enzyme insertion/deletion (ACE I/D) polymorphism and the α-actinin-3 gene (ACTN3) R577X polymorphism have been most widely studied for such association analysis. However, the findings are frequently heterogeneous. We aim to summarize the associations of ACE I/D and ACTN3 R577X with sport performance by means of meta-analysis.
We systematically reviewed and quantitatively summarized published studies, until October 31, 2012, on relationship between ACE/ACTN3 genetic polymorphisms and sports performance, respectively.
A total of 366 articles on ACE and 88 articles on ACTN3 were achieved by literature search. A significant association was found for ACE II genotype compared to D allele carriage (DD+ID) with increased possibility of physical performance (OR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.05–1.45). With respect to sport discipline, the II genotype was found to be associated with performance in endurance athletes (OR, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.17–1.55). On the other hand, no significant association was observed for ACTN3 RR genotype as compared to X allele carriage (XX+RX) (OR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.92–1.15). However, when restricted the analyses to power events, a significant association was observed (OR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.03–1.42).
Our results provide more solid evidence for the associations between ACE II genotype and endurance events and between ACTN3 R allele and power events. The findings suggest that the genetic profiles might influence human physical performance.
PMCID: PMC3554644  PMID: 23358679
5.  Association of the ACTN3 R577X Polymorphism in Polish Power-Orientated Athletes 
Journal of Human Kinetics  2011;28:55-61.
Alpha-actinins are an ancient family of actin-binding proteins that play structural and regulatory roles in cytoskeletal organization. In skeletal muscle, α-actinin-3 protein is an important structural component of the Z disc, where it anchors actin thin filaments, helping to maintain the myofibrillar array. A common nonsense polymorphism in codon 577 of the ACTN3 gene (R577X) results in α-actinin-3 deficiency in XX homozygotes. Based on knowledge about the role of ACTN3 R557X polymorphism in skeletal muscle function, we postulated that the genetic polymorphism of ACTN3 could also improve sprint and power ability.
We compared genotypic and allelic frequencies of the ACTN3 R557X polymorphism in two groups of men of the same Caucasian descent: 158 power-orientated athletes and 254 volunteers not involved in competitive sport.
The genotype distribution in the group of power-oriented athletes showed significant differences (P=0.008) compared to controls. However, among the investigated subgroups of athletes, only the difference of ACTN3 R577X genotype between sprinters and controls reached statistical significance (P=0.041). The frequencies of the ACTN3 577X allele (30.69% vs. 40.35%; P=0.005) were significantly different in all athletes compared to controls.
Our results support the hypothesis that the ACTN3 577XX allele may have some beneficial effect on sprint-power performance, because the ACTN3 XX genotype is significantly reduced in Polish power-oriented athletes compared to controls. This finding seems to be in agreement with previously reported case-control studies. However, ACTN3 polymorphism as a genetic marker for sport talent identification should be interpreted with great caution.
PMCID: PMC3592109  PMID: 23486986
α-actinin-3; genotype; power-orientated athletes
6.  The ACTN3 R577X nonsense allele is under-represented in elite-level strength athletes 
Previous reports have shown a lower proportion of the ACTN3 X/X genotype (R577X nonsense polymorphism) in sprint-related athletes compared to the general population, possibly attributed to impairment of muscle function related to α-actinin-3 deficiency. In the present study, we examined the frequency of the X/X genotype in both Black and White elite-level bodybuilders and strength athletes in comparison to the general population. A reference population of 668 Whites (363 men and 305 women) and 208 Blacks (98 men and 110 women) was genotyped for the ACTN3 R577X polymorphism. Strength athletes (52 white and 23 black; 4 women) consisting predominantly of world class and locally competitive bodybuilders, and elite powerlifters were recruited and similarly genotyped. Significantly lower X/X genotype frequencies were observed in the athletes (6.7%) vs controls (16.3%; P = 0.005). The X/X genotype was significantly lower in White athletes (9.7%) vs controls (19.9%; P = 0.018). No black athletes (0%) were observed with the X/X genotype, though this finding only approached statistical significance vs controls (4.8%; P = 0.10). The results indicate that the ACTN3 R577X nonsense allele (X) is under-represented in elite strength athletes, consistent with previous reports indicating that α-actinin-3 deficiency appears to impair muscle performance.
PMCID: PMC2668151  PMID: 18043716
skeletal muscle; polymorphism; muscle strength
7.  The FTO A/T Polymorphism and Elite Athletic Performance: A Study Involving Three Groups of European Athletes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60570.
The FTO A/T polymorphism (rs9939609) is a strong candidate to influence obesity-related traits. Elite athletes from many different sporting disciplines are characterized by low body fat. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess whether athletic status is associated with the FTO A/T polymorphism.
Subjects and Methods
A large cohort of European Caucasians from Poland, Russia and Spain were tested to examine the association between FTO A/T polymorphism (rs9939609) and athletic status. A total of 551 athletes were divided by type of sport (endurance athletes, n = 266 vs. sprint/power athletes, n = 285) as well as by level of competition (elite-level vs. national-level). The control group consisted of 1,416 ethnically-matched, non-athletic participants, all Europeans. Multinomial logistic regression analyses were conducted to assess the association between FTO A/T genotypes and athletic status/competition level.
There were no significantly greater/lesser odds of harbouring any type of genotype when comparing across athletic status (endurance athletes, sprint/power athletes or control participants). These effects were observed after controlling for sex and nationality. Furthermore, no significantly greater/lesser odds ratios were observed for any of the genotypes in respect to the level of competition (elite-level vs. national-level).
The FTO A/T polymorphism is not associated with elite athletic status in the largest group of elite athletes studied to date. Large collaborations and data sharing between researchers, as presented here, are strongly recommended to enhance the research in the field of exercise genomics.
PMCID: PMC3616005  PMID: 23573268
8.  Sprint and endurance power and ageing: an analysis of master athletic world records 
Human physical performance is notably reduced with ageing. Although the effects of ageing are often compounded by disuse, the study of master athletes provides an opportunity for investigating the effects of ageing per se. It is often held that sprinting is more affected than endurance performance. However, past analyses of master athletic world record data have yielded opposite observations. We argue here that our understanding of these data improves by considering how, biomechanically, metabolic power is related to athletic performance. In line with earlier studies, our analysis showed that running speed declines with age in a more pronounced way for endurance events than for sprinting events, confirming former studies. However, when assessing the metabolic power required to achieve the running world records, sprint and endurance events show a relatively uniform decline with age across the different events. This study has reconciled formerly conflicting scientific results and improves our understanding of the ageing process. However, it is unclear as to which are the governing mechanisms that cause the different systems in our body, responsible for sprinting and for endurance performance, to be affected by ageing in a remarkably uniform way.
PMCID: PMC2660943  PMID: 18957366
master athletes; veteran athletes; maximum performance; sport; exercise
9.  Association between the Pro12Ala Polymorphism of the Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma Gene and Strength Athlete Status 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67172.
The 12Ala allele of the Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor gamma gene (PPARG) Pro12Ala polymorphism produces a decreased binding affinity of the PPARγ2 protein, resulting in low activation of the target genes. The 12Ala allele carriers display a significantly improved insulin sensitivity that may result in better glucose utilisation in working skeletal muscles. We hypothesise that the PPARG 12Ala allele could be associated with strength athlete status in Polish athletes.
The genotype distribution of PPARG Pro12Ala was examined in 660 Polish athletes. The athletes were stratified into four subgroups: endurance, strength-endurance, sprint-strength and strength. Control samples were prepared from 684 unrelated sedentary volunteers. A χ2 test was used to compare the PPARG Pro12Ala allele and genotype frequencies between the different groups of athletes and control subjects. Bonferroni’s correction for multiple testing was applied.
A statistically significant higher frequency of PPARG 12Ala alleles was observed in the subgroup of strength athletes performing short-term and very intense exertion characterised by predominant anaerobic energy production (13.2% vs. 7.5% in controls; P = 0.0007).
The PPARG 12Ala allele may be a relevant genetic factor favouring strength abilities in professional athletes, especially in terms of insulin-dependent metabolism, a shift of the energy balance towards glucose utilisation and the development of a favourable weight-to-strength ratio.
PMCID: PMC3683011  PMID: 23799144
10.  Associations between a Polymorphism in the Pleiotropic GCKR and Age-Related Phenotypes: The HALCyon Programme 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70045.
The glucokinase regulatory protein encoded by GCKR plays an important role in glucose metabolism and a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs1260326 (P446L) in the gene has been associated with several age-related biomarkers, including triglycerides, glucose, insulin and apolipoproteins. However, associations between SNPs in the gene and other ageing phenotypes such as cognitive and physical capability have not been reported.
As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) collaborative research programme, men and women from five UK cohorts aged between 44 and 90+ years were genotyped for rs1260326. Meta-analysis was used to pool within-study genotypic associations between the SNP and several age-related phenotypes, including body mass index (BMI), blood lipid levels, lung function, and cognitive and physical capability.
We confirm the associations between the minor allele of the SNP and higher triglycerides and lower glucose levels. We also observed a triglyceride-independent association between the minor allele and lower BMI (pooled beta on z-score = −0.04, p-value = 0.0001, n = 16,251). Furthermore, there was some evidence for gene-environment interactions, including physical activity attenuating the effects on triglycerides. However, no associations were observed with measures of cognitive and physical capability.
Findings from middle-aged to older adults confirm associations between rs1260326 GCKR and triglycerides and glucose, suggest possible gene-environment interactions, but do not provide evidence that its relevance extends to cognitive and physical capability.
PMCID: PMC3720952  PMID: 23894584
11.  Citius and longius (faster and longer) with no α‐actinin‐3 in skeletal muscles? 
The muscle protein α‐actinin‐3 (ACTN3) is normally thought to be expressed in type II muscle fibres and to be necessary for high‐power, high‐velocity muscle contractions, such as those typically seen in speed/power athletes. The authors report the case of a Spanish elite long jumper (two times Olympian, personal best of 8.26 m) whose genotype for the ACTN3 gene is 577XX (ACTN3 deficient). These data suggest that there might be notable exceptions to the concept that ACTN3 is the “gene for speed”.
PMCID: PMC2465381  PMID: 17289854
12.  Absence of association of a SNP in the TERT-CLPTM1L locus with age-related phenotypes in a large multi-cohort study: the HALCyon program 
Aging cell  2011;10(3):520-532.
Several age-related traits are associated with shorter telomeres, the structures that cap the end of linear chromosomes. A common polymorphism near the telomere maintenance gene TERT has been associated with several cancers, but relationships with other ageing traits such as physical capability have not been reported.
As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) collaborative research programme, men and women aged between 44 and 90 years from 9 UK cohorts were genotyped for the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs401681. We then investigated relationships between the SNP and 30 age-related phenotypes, including cognitive and physical capability, blood lipid levels and lung function, pooling within-study genotypic effects in meta-analyses.
No significant associations were found between the SNP and any of the cognitive performance tests (e.g. pooled beta per T allele for word recall z-score=0.02, 95% CI: -0.01- 0.04, p-value=0.12, n=18,737), physical performance tests (e.g. pooled beta for grip strength=-0.02, 95% CI:-0.045- 0.006, p-value=0.14, n=11,711), blood pressure, lung function or blood test measures. Similarly, no differences in observations were found when considering follow-up measures of cognitive or physical performance after adjusting for its measure at an earlier assessment.
The lack of associations between SNP rs401681 and a wide range of age-related phenotypes investigated in this large multi-cohort study suggests that whilst this SNP may be associated with cancer, it is not an important contributor to other markers of ageing.
PMCID: PMC3094481  PMID: 21332924
Aging; ageing; middle-aged; telomere; cognition; physical
13.  Absence of association of a single-nucleotide polymorphism in the TERT-CLPTM1L locus with age-related phenotypes in a large multicohort study: the HALCyon programme 
Aging Cell  2011;10(3):520-532.
Several age-related traits are associated with shorter telomeres, the structures that cap the end of linear chromosomes. A common polymorphism near the telomere maintenance gene TERT has been associated with several cancers, but relationships with other aging traits such as physical capability have not been reported. As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) collaborative research programme, men and women aged between 44 and 90 years from nine UK cohorts were genotyped for the single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs401681. We then investigated relationships between the SNP and 30 age-related phenotypes, including cognitive and physical capability, blood lipid levels and lung function, pooling within-study genotypic effects in meta-analyses. No significant associations were found between the SNP and any of the cognitive performance tests (e.g. pooled beta per T allele for word recall z-score = 0.02, 95% CI: −0.01 to 0.04, P-value = 0.12, n = 18 737), physical performance tests (e.g. pooled beta for grip strength = −0.02, 95% CI: −0.045 to 0.006, P-value = 0.14, n = 11 711), blood pressure, lung function or blood test measures. Similarly, no differences in observations were found when considering follow-up measures of cognitive or physical performance after adjusting for its measure at an earlier assessment. The lack of associations between SNP rs401681 and a wide range of age-related phenotypes investigated in this large multicohort study suggests that while this SNP may be associated with cancer, it is not an important contributor to other markers of aging.
PMCID: PMC3094481  PMID: 21332924
aging; cognition; middle-aged; physical; telomere
14.  Genetic markers of bone and joint health and physical capability in older adults: the HALCyon programme 
Bone  2013;52(1):278-285.
Good bone and joint health is essential for the physical tasks of daily living and poorer indicators of physical capability in older adults have been associated with increased mortality rates. Genetic variants of indicators of bone and joint health may be associated with measures of physical capability.
As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) programme, men and women aged between 52 and 90 + years from six UK cohorts were genotyped for a polymorphism associated with serum calcium (rs1801725, CASR), two polymorphisms associated with bone mineral density (BMD) (rs2941740, ESR1 and rs9594759, RANKL) and one associated with osteoarthritis risk rs3815148 (COG5). Meta-analysis was used to pool within-study effects of the associations between each of the polymorphisms and measures of physical capability: grip strength, timed walk or get up and go, chair rises and standing balance.
Few important associations were observed among the several tests. We found that carriers of the serum calcium-raising allele had poorer grip strength compared with non-carriers (pooled p = 0.05, n = 11,239) after adjusting for age and sex. Inconsistent results were observed for the two variants associated with BMD and we found no evidence for an association between rs3815148 (COG5) and any of the physical capability measures.
Our findings suggest elevated serum calcium levels may lead to lower grip strength, though this requires further replication. Our results do not provide evidence for a substantial influence of these variants in ESR1, RANKL and COG5 on physical capability in older adults.
► We examined associations between bone-related genotypes and physical capability. ► We conducted a meta-analysis on 12,836 middle-age adults. ► We found CASR may be associated with grip strength. ► No substantial support for specific bone mineral density variants and physical capability.
PMCID: PMC3526776  PMID: 23072920
BMD, bone mineral density; OA, osteoarthritis; BMI, body mass index; SNP, single nucleotide polymorphism; CaPS, Caerphilly Prospective Study; ELSA, English Longitudinal Study of Ageing; HAS, Hertfordshire Ageing Study; HCS, Hertfordshire Cohort Study; LBC1921, The Lothian Birth Cohort 1921; NSHD, National Survey of Health and Development; HWE, Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium; WHR, waist–hip ratio; GWAS, genome-wide association studies; Aging; Grip strength; Calcium; Bone mineral density; Osteoarthritis
15.  ACTN3 R577X Polymorphism and Neuromuscular Response to Resistance Training 
The R577X polymorphism at the ACTN3 gene has been associated with muscle strength, hypertrophy and athletic status. The X allele, which is associated with the absence of ACTN3 protein is supposed to impair performance of high force/velocity muscle contractions. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the association of the R577X polymorphism with the muscle response to resistance training in young men. One hundred forty one men performed two resistance training sessions per week for 11 weeks. Participants were tested for 1RM bench press, knee extensors peak torque, and knee extensors muscle thickness at baseline and after the training period. Genotyping was conducted using de DdeI restriction enzyme. Genotype distribution was 34.4% for RR, 47% for RX and 18.6% for the XX genotype. According to the results, the R577X polymorphism at the ACTN3 gene is not associated with baseline muscle strength or with the muscle strength response to resistance training. However, only carriers of the R allele showed increases in muscle thickness in response to training.
Key pointsACTN3 Genotype distribution in the present study was similar to others populations (34.4% for RR, 47% for RX, and 18.6% for the XX).The R577X polymorphism at the ACTN3 gene is not associated with baseline muscle strength or with the muscle strength response to resistance training.It appears that the R allele carriers respond better to muscle thickness gains in response to training.
PMCID: PMC3761844  PMID: 24149888
Muscle strength; muscle hypertrophy; peak torque; genotype; alpha-actinin 3; knee extensor
16.  Are ‘Endurance’ Alleles ‘Survival’ Alleles? Insights from the ACTN3 R577X Polymorphism 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17558.
Exercise phenotypes have played a key role for ensuring survival over human evolution. We speculated that some genetic variants that influence exercise phenotypes could be associated with exceptional survival (i.e. reaching ≥100years of age). Owing to its effects on muscle structure/function, a potential candidate is the Arg(R)577Ter(X) polymorphism (rs1815739) in ACTN3, the structural gene encoding the skeletal muscle protein α-actinin-3. We compared the ACTN3 R577X genotype/allele frequencies between the following groups of ethnically-matched (Spanish) individuals: centenarians (cases, n = 64; 57 female; age range: 100–108 years), young healthy controls (n = 283, 67 females, 216 males; 21±2 years), and humans who are at the two end-points of exercise capacity phenotypes, i.e. muscle endurance (50 male professional road cyclists) and muscle power (63 male jumpers/sprinters). Although there were no differences in genotype/allele frequencies between centenarians (RR:28.8%; RX:47.5%; XX:23.7%), and controls (RR:31.8%; RX:49.8%; XX:18.4%) or endurance athletes (RR:28.0%; RX:46%; XX:26.0%), we observed a significantly higher frequency of the X allele (P = 0.019) and XX genotype (P = 0.011) in centenarians compared with power athletes (RR:47.6%; RX:36.5%;XX:15.9%). Notably, the frequency of the null XX (α-actinin-3 deficient) genotype in centenarians was the highest ever reported in non-athletic Caucasian populations. In conclusion, despite there were no significant differences with the younger, control population, overall the ACTN3 genotype of centenarians resembles that of world-class elite endurance athletes and differs from that of elite power athletes. Our preliminary data would suggest a certain ‘survival’ advantage brought about by α-actinin-3 deficiency and the ‘endurance’/oxidative muscle phenotype that is commonly associated with this condition.
PMCID: PMC3048287  PMID: 21407828
17.  The aging of elite male athletes: age-related changes in performance and skeletal muscle structure and function 
The paper addresses the degree to which the attainment of the status as an elite athlete in different sports ameliorates the known age-related losses in skeletal muscle structure and function.
The retrospective design, based on comparisons of published data on former elite and masters athletes and data on control subjects, assessed the degree to which the attainment of ‘elite and masters athlete status’ ameliorated the known age-related changes in skeletal muscle structure and function.
Elite male athletes.
Participation in selected individual and team sports.
Main Outcome Measurements
Strength, power, VO2 max and performance.
For elite athletes in all sports, as for the general population, age-related muscle atrophy begins at about 50 years of age. Despite the loss of muscle mass, elite athletes who maintain an active life style age gracefully with few health problems. Conversely, those who lapse into inactivity regress toward general population norms for fitness, weight control, and health problems. Elite athletes in the dual and team sports have careers that rarely extend into the thirties.
Life long physical activity does not appear to have any impact on the loss in fiber number. The loss of fibers can be buffered to some degree by hypertrophy of fibers that remain. Surprisingly, the performance of elite athletes in all sports appears to be impaired before the onset of the fiber loss. Even with major losses in physical capacity and muscle mass, the performance of elite and masters athletes is remarkable.
PMCID: PMC3928819  PMID: 19001883
18.  Advances in Exercise, Fitness, and Performance Genomics in 2010 (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise) 
This review of the exercise genomics literature emphasizes the strongest papers published in 2010 as defined by sample size, quality of phenotype measurements, quality of the exercise program or physical activity exposure, study design, adjustment for multiple testing, quality of genotyping, and other related study characteristics. One study on voluntary running wheel behavior was performed in 448 mice from 41 inbred strains. Several quantitative trait loci for running distance, speed, and duration were identified. Several studies on the alpha-3 actinin (ACTN3) R577X nonsense polymorphism and the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) I/D polymorphism were reported with no clear evidence for a joint effect, but the studies were generally underpowered. Skeletal muscle RNA abundance at baseline for 29 transcripts and 11 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were both found to be predictive of the VO2max response to exercise training in one report from multiple laboratories. None of the 50 loci associated with adiposity traits is known to influence physical activity behavior. However, physical activity appears to reduce the obesity-promoting effects of at least 12 of these loci. Evidence continues to be strong for a role of gene-exercise interaction effects on the improvement in insulin sensitivity following exposure to regular exercise. SNPs in the cAMP responsive element binding position 1 (CREB1) gene were associated with training-induced heart rate response, in the C-reactive protein (CRP) gene with training-induced changes in left ventricular mass, and in the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene with carotid stiffness in low-fit individuals. We conclude that progress is being made but that high-quality research designs and replication studies with large sample sizes are urgently needed.
PMCID: PMC3951763  PMID: 21499051
Genetics; exercise training; candidate genes; gene-exercise interaction; single nucleotide polymorphism; quantitative trait locus; genomic predictors
19.  Body Mass Index, Muscle Strength and Physical Performance in Older Adults from Eight Cohort Studies: The HALCyon Programme 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56483.
To investigate the associations of body mass index (BMI) and grip strength with objective measures of physical performance (chair rise time, walking speed and balance) including an assessment of sex differences and non-linearity.
Cross-sectional data from eight UK cohort studies (total N = 16 444) participating in the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) research programme, ranging in age from 50 to 90+ years at the time of physical capability assessment, were used. Regression models were fitted within each study and meta-analysis methods used to pool regression coefficients across studies and to assess the extent of heterogeneity between studies.
Higher BMI was associated with poorer performance on chair rise (N = 10 773), walking speed (N = 9 761) and standing balance (N = 13 921) tests. Higher BMI was associated with stronger grip strength in men only. Stronger grip strength was associated with better performance on all tests with a tendency for the associations to be stronger in women than men; for example, walking speed was higher by 0.43 cm/s (0.14, 0.71) more per kg in women than men. Both BMI and grip strength remained independently related with performance after mutual adjustment, but there was no evidence of effect modification. Both BMI and grip strength exhibited non-linear relations with performance; those in the lowest fifth of grip strength and highest fifth of BMI having particularly poor performance. Findings were similar when waist circumference was examined in place of BMI.
Older men and women with weak muscle strength and high BMI have considerably poorer performance than others and associations were observed even in the youngest cohort (age 53). Although causality cannot be inferred from observational cross-sectional studies, our findings suggest the likely benefit of early assessment and interventions to reduce fat mass and improve muscle strength in the prevention of future functional limitations.
PMCID: PMC3577921  PMID: 23437142
20.  Age and Gender Differences in Physical Capability Levels from Mid-Life Onwards: The Harmonisation and Meta-Analysis of Data from Eight UK Cohort Studies 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27899.
Using data from eight UK cohorts participating in the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) research programme, with ages at physical capability assessment ranging from 50 to 90+ years, we harmonised data on objective measures of physical capability (i.e. grip strength, chair rising ability, walking speed, timed get up and go, and standing balance performance) and investigated the cross-sectional age and gender differences in these measures. Levels of physical capability were generally lower in study participants of older ages, and men performed better than women (for example, results from meta-analyses (N = 14,213 (5 studies)), found that men had 12.62 kg (11.34, 13.90) higher grip strength than women after adjustment for age and body size), although for walking speed, this gender difference was attenuated after adjustment for body size. There was also evidence that the gender difference in grip strength diminished with increasing age,whereas the gender difference in walking speed widened (p<0.01 for interactions between age and gender in both cases). This study highlights not only the presence of age and gender differences in objective measures of physical capability but provides a demonstration that harmonisation of data from several large cohort studies is possible. These harmonised data are now being used within HALCyon to understand the lifetime social and biological determinants of physical capability and its changes with age.
PMCID: PMC3218057  PMID: 22114723
21.  Comparison of Brachial Artery Vasoreactivity in Elite Power Athletes and Age-Matched Controls 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54718.
Elite endurance athletes typically have larger arteries contributing to greater skeletal muscle blood flow, oxygen and nutrient delivery and improved physical performance. Few studies have examined structural and functional properties of arteries in power athletes.
To compare the size and vasoreactivity of the brachial artery of elite power athletes to age-matched controls. It was hypothesized brachial artery diameters of athletes would be larger, have less vasodilation in response to cuff occlusion, but more constriction after a cold pressor test than age-matched controls.
Eight elite power athletes (age = 23±2 years) and ten controls (age = 22±1 yrs) were studied. High-resolution ultrasonography was used to assess brachial artery diameters at rest and following 5 minutes of forearm occlusion (Brachial Artery Flow Mediated Dilation = BAFMD) and a cold pressor test (CPT). Basic fitness measures included a handgrip test and 3-minute step test.
Brachial arteries of athletes were larger (Athletes 5.39±1.51 vs. Controls: 3.73±0.71 mm, p<0.05), had greater vasodilatory (BAFMD%: Athletes: 8.21±1.78 vs. Controls: 5.69±1.56%) and constrictor (CPT %: Athletes: -2.95±1.07 vs. Controls: −1.20±0.48%) responses, compared to controls. Vascular operating range (VOR = Peak dilation+Peak Constriction) was also greater in athletes (VOR: Athletes: 0.55±0.15 vs. Controls: 0.25±0.18 mm, p<0.05). Athletes had superior handgrip strength (Athletes: 55.92±17.06 vs. Controls: 36.77±17.06 kg, p<0.05) but similar heart rate responses at peak (Athletes: 123±16 vs. Controls: 130±25 bpm, p>0.05) and 1 minute recovery (Athletes: 88±21 vs. Controls: 98±26 bpm, p>0.05) following the step test.
Elite power athletes have larger brachial arteries, and greater vasoreactivity (greater vasodilatory and constrictor responses) than age-matched controls, contributing to a significantly greater VOR. These data extend the existence of an ‘athlete’s artery’ as previously shown for elite endurance athletes to elite power athletes, and presents a hypothetical explanation for the functional significance of the ‘power athlete’s artery’.
PMCID: PMC3554649  PMID: 23359214
22.  Factors associated with symptoms of anxiety and depression in five cohorts of community-based older people: the HALCyon (Healthy Ageing across the Life Course) Programme 
Psychological medicine  2011;41(10):2057-2073.
Symptoms of anxiety and depression are common in older people, but the relative importance of factors operating in early and later life in influencing risk is unclear, particularly in the case of anxiety.
We used data from five cohorts in the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) collaborative research programme : the Aberdeen Birth Cohort 1936, the Caerphilly Prospective Study, the Hertfordshire Ageing Study, the Hertfordshire Cohort Study and the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921. We used logistic regression to examine the relationship between factors from early and later life and risk of anxiety or depression, defined as scores of 8 or more on the subscales of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and meta-analysis to obtain an overall estimate of the effect of each.
Greater neuroticism, poorer cognitive or physical function, greater disability and taking more medications were associated in cross-sectional analyses with an increased overall likelihood of anxiety or depression. Associations between lower social class, either in childhood or currently, history of heart disease, stroke or diabetes and increased risk of anxiety or depression were attenuated and no longer statistically significant after adjustment for potential confounding or mediating variables. There was no association between birth weight and anxiety or depression in later life.
Anxiety and depression in later life are both strongly linked to personality, cognitive and physical function, disability and state of health, measured concurrently. Possible mechanisms that might underlie these associations are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3349051  PMID: 21349224
Anxiety; cohort studies; depression; elderly; life course
23.  Social Support in the Athletic Training Room: Athletes' Expectations of Staff and Student Athletic Trainers 
Journal of Athletic Training  1997;32(4):333-338.
Social support has been identified repeatedly in the literature as being beneficial to individuals suffering from injury or illness. Because of the frequent interaction between athletic trainers and student athletes, the athletic trainer is in a unique position to provide a variety of social support to the athlete. The purpose of the study was (1) to identify the degree to which athletes actually receive each of eight types of social support; (2) to identify the types of social support athletes need or expect to receive from staff and student athletic trainers; and (3) to compare the athletes' satisfaction with the quality of the support received from athletic training staff and students.
Design and Setting:
A questionnaire was used to collect data for this study. It was administered at a Division I university.
Eighty-five student-athletes at a Division I university.
The survey consisted of 24 questions that used a five-point Likert rating scale.
There was no significant difference in the amount of social support received by athletes from staff and student athletic trainers, in athletes' expectations of staff and student athletic trainers with regard to provision of social support, or in the athletes' level of satisfaction with staff and student athletic trainers' provision of social support.
Examined collectively, the findings indicate that athletes do not differentiate between staff and student athletic trainers with regard to the provision of social support. However, finding that athletes do not differentiate between staff and student athletic trainers in this area is significant in itself and has implications for athletic training education programs.
PMCID: PMC1320351  PMID: 16558469
sport psychology; psychology of injury
24.  Role of Alpha-actinin-3 in Contractile Properties of Human Single Muscle Fibers: A Case Series Study in Paraplegics 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49281.
A common nonsense polymorphism in the ACTN3 gene results in the absence of α-actinin-3 in XX individuals. The wild type allele has been associated with power athlete status and an increased force output in numeral studies, though the mechanisms by which these effects occur are unclear. Recent findings in the Actn3−/− (KO) mouse suggest a shift towards ‘slow’ metabolic and contractile characteristics of fast muscle fibers lacking α-actinin-3. Skinned single fibers from the quadriceps muscle of three men with spinal cord injury (SCI) were tested regarding peak force, unloaded shortening velocity, force-velocity relationship, passive tension and calcium sensitivity. The SCI condition induces an ‘equal environment condition’ what makes these subjects ideal to study the role of α-actinin-3 on fiber type expression and single muscle fiber contractile properties. Genotyping for ACTN3 revealed that the three subjects were XX, RX and RR carriers, respectively. The XX carrier’s biopsy was the only one that presented type I fibers with a complete lack of type IIx fibers. Properties of hybrid type IIa/IIx fibers were compared between the three subjects. Absence of α-actinin-3 resulted in less stiff type IIa/IIx fibers. The heterozygote (RX) exhibited the highest fiber diameter (0.121±0.005 mm) and CSA (0.012±0.001 mm2) and, as a consequence, the highest peak force (2.11±0.14 mN). Normalized peak force was similar in all three subjects (P = 0.75). Unloaded shortening velocity was highest in R-allele carriers (P<0.001). No difference was found in calcium sensitivity. The preservation of type I fibers and the absence of type IIx fibers in the XX individual indicate a restricted transformation of the muscle fiber composition to type II fibers in response to long-term muscle disuse. Lack of α-actinin-3 may decrease unloaded shortening velocity and increase fiber elasticity.
PMCID: PMC3493539  PMID: 23145141
25.  ACTN3 Allele Frequency in Humans Covaries with Global Latitudinal Gradient 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e52282.
A premature stop codon in ACTN3 resulting in α-actinin-3 deficiency (the ACTN3 577XX genotype) is common in humans and reduces strength, muscle mass, and fast-twitch fiber diameter, but increases the metabolic efficiency of skeletal muscle. Linkage disequilibrium data suggest that the ACTN3 R577X allele has undergone positive selection during human evolution. The allele has been hypothesized to be adaptive in environments with scarce resources where efficient muscle metabolism would be selected. Here we test this hypothesis by using recently developed comparative methods that account for evolutionary relatedness and gene flow among populations. We find evidence that the ACTN3 577XX genotype evolved in association with the global latitudinal gradient. Our results suggest that environmental variables related to latitudinal variation, such as species richness and mean annual temperature, may have influenced the adaptive evolution of ACTN3 577XX during recent human history.
PMCID: PMC3554748  PMID: 23359641

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