Research Paper Volume 11, Issue 7 pp 2111—2126

The acute transcriptional response to resistance exercise: impact of age and contraction mode

Colleen S. Deane1, , Ryan M. Ames2, , Bethan E. Phillips3, , Michael N. Weedon4, , Craig R.G. Willis1, , Catherine Boereboom3, , Haitham Abdulla3, , Syed S.I. Bukhari3, , Jonathan N. Lund5, , John P. Williams3, , Daniel J. Wilkinson3, , Kenneth Smith3, , Iain J. Gallagher6, , Fawzi Kadi7, , Nathaniel J. Szewczyk3, , Philip J. Atherton3,8, , Timothy Etheridge1,8, ,

  • 1 Department of Sport and Health Sciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter EX1 2LU, UK
  • 2 Living Systems Institute, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QD, UK
  • 3 MRC-ARUK Centre of Research Excellence and National Institute of Health Research, Biomedical Research Centre, Postgraduate Entry Medical School, Royal Derby Hospital Centre, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Derby DE22 3DT, UK
  • 4 Genetics of Complex Traits, University of Exeter Medical School, University of Exeter, Exeter EX1 2LU, UK
  • 5 Department of Surgery, Postgraduate Entry Medical School, Royal Derby Hospital Centre, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Derby DE22 3DT, UK
  • 6 Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK
  • 7 School of Health Sciences, Örebro University, Örebro 70182, Sweden
  • 8 Joint senior authorship
* Equal contribution

Received: January 3, 2019       Accepted: March 31, 2019       Published: April 15, 2019
How to Cite

Copyright: Deane et al. This is an open‐access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Optimization of resistance exercise (RE) remains a hotbed of research for muscle building and maintenance. However, the interactions between the contractile components of RE (i.e. concentric (CON) and eccentric (ECC)) and age, are poorly defined. We used transcriptomics to compare age-related molecular responses to acute CON and ECC exercise. Eight young (21±1 y) and eight older (70±1 y) exercise-naïve male volunteers had vastus lateralis biopsies collected at baseline and 5 h post unilateral CON and contralateral ECC exercise. RNA was subjected to next-generation sequencing and differentially expressed (DE) genes tested for pathway enrichment using Gene Ontology (GO). The young transcriptional response to CON and ECC was highly similar and older adults displayed moderate contraction-specific profiles, with no GO enrichment. Age-specific responses to ECC revealed 104 DE genes unique to young, and 170 DE genes in older muscle, with no GO enrichment. Following CON, 15 DE genes were young muscle-specific, whereas older muscle uniquely expressed 147 up-regulated genes enriched for cell adhesion and blood vessel development, and 28 down-regulated genes involved in mitochondrial respiration, amino acid and lipid metabolism. Thus, older age is associated with contraction-specific regulation often without clear functional relevance, perhaps reflecting a degree of stochastic age-related dysregulation.


CON: concentric; CPM: counts per million; DE: differentially expressed; DNA: deoxyribonucleic acid; ECC: eccentric: GO: gene ontology; HSP: heat shock protein; LFC: log2 fold change; MDS: multi-dimensional scaling; RE: resistance exercise; RET: resistance exercise training; RNA: ribonucleic acid; RRHO: rank-rank hypergeometric overlap; TOR: target of rapamycin; 1-RM: one-repetition maximum.