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Prolonged lifespan and decreased fertility will lead to an increased proportion of older adults in the world population (population aging). An important strategy to deal with population aging has been to promote healthy aging; not only to prevent mounting health care costs, but also to maintain independence and quality of life of older populations for as long as possible. Close to the opposite of the healthy aging is frailty. A major component of (physical) frailty is sarcopenia: age-related loss of muscle mass. Decreased muscle size and strength has been associated with a wide variety of negative health outcomes, including increased risk of hospitalization, physical disability and even death. Therefore, maintaining muscle size and strength is very important for healthy aging. Nutrition and physical activity are possible strategies to maintain or even improve muscle function with age.
The effect of nutrition, age, frailty and physical activity on the function of skeletal muscle is complex. A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved can provide new insights in potential strategies to maintain muscle function over the life course. This thesis aims to investigate these mechanisms and processes that underlie the effects of age, frailty and physical activity by leveraging the sensitivity and comprehensiveness of transcriptomics and metabolomics.
Chapter 2 and 3 describe the effects of age, frailty and resistance-type exercise training on the skeletal muscle transcriptome and metabolome. Both the transcriptome and metabolome show significant differences between frail and healthy older adults. These differences are similar to the differneces between healthy young men and healthy older adults, suggesting that frailty presents itself as a more pronounced form of aging, somewhat independent of chronological age. These age and frailty related differences in the transcriptome are partially reversed by resistance-type exercise training, in accordance with the observed improvement in muscle strength. Regression analysis revealed that the protocadherin gamma gene cluster may be important to skeletal muscle function. Protocadherin gamma is involved in axon guidance and may be upregulated due to the denervation-reinnervation cycles observed in skeletal muscle of older individuals. The metabolome suggested that resistance-type exercise training led to a decrease in branched-chain amino acid oxidation, as shown by a decrease in amino acid derived carnitines. Lastly, the blood metabolome showed little agreement with the metabolome in skeletal muscle, indicating that blood is a poor read-out of muscle metabolism.
We assessed the effect of knee immobilization with creatine supplementation or placebo on the skeletal muscle transcriptome and metabolome in chapter 4. Knee immobilization caused muscle mass loss and strength loss in all participants, with no differences between creatine and placebo groups. Knee immobilization appeared to induce the HDAC4-myogenin axis, which is primarily associated with denervation and motor neuron diseases. The metabolome showed changes consistent with the decreased expression of energy metabolism genes. While acyl-carnitine levels tended to decrease with knee immobilization, one branched-chain amino acid-derived acyl carnitine was increased after knee immobilization, suggesting increased amino acid oxidation.
Vitamin D deficiency is common among older adults and has been linked to muscle weakness. Vitamin D supplementation has been proposed as a strategy to improve muscle function among older populations. In chapter 5, supplementation with vitamin D (calcifediol, 25(OH)D) is investigated as nutritional strategy to improve muscle function among frail older adults. However, we observed no effect of vitamin D on the muscle transcriptome. These findings indicate the effects of vitamin D supplementation on skeletal muscle may be either absent, weak, or limited to a small subset of muscle cells.
Transcriptomic changes due to different forms of muscle disuse are compared in chapter 6 (primarily knee immobilization and bed rest). The goal was to determine the similarities and differences among various causes of muscle atrophy in humans (primarily muscle disuse). Both knee immobilization and bed rest led to significant changes in the muscle transcriptome. However, the overlap in significantly changed genes was relatively small. Knee immobilization was characterized by ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis and induction of the HDAC4/Myogenin axis, whereas bed rest revealed increased expression of genes of the immune system and increased expression of lysosomal genes. Knee immobilization showed the highest similarity with age and frailty-related transcriptomic changes. This finding suggests that knee immobilization may be the most suitable form of disuse atrophy to assess the effectiveness of strategies to prevent age-related muscle loss in humans.
The transcriptome and metabolome are incredibly useful tools in describing the wide array of biological systems within skeletal muscle. These systems can be modulated using physical activity (or lack thereof) as well as nutrition. This thesis describes some of these processes and highlights several unexplored genes and metabolites that may be important for maintaining or even optimizing muscle function. In the future, it may be possible to optimize both exercise and nutrition for each individual using these techniques; or even better, cheaper and less invasive alternatives.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||15 Dec 2017|
|Place of Publication||Wageningen|
|Publication status||Published - 2017|
- physical activity
- vitamin d