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09.11.2019 | Original Article | Ausgabe 1/2020

European Journal of Applied Physiology 1/2020

The impact of acute and chronic exercise on Nrf2 expression in relation to markers of mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle

European Journal of Applied Physiology > Ausgabe 1/2020
Hashim Islam, Jacob T. Bonafiglia, Patrick C. Turnbull, Craig A. Simpson, Christopher G. R. Perry, Brendon J. Gurd
Wichtige Hinweise
Communicated by Michalis G. Nikolaidis.

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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00421-019-04259-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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To examine the relationship between changes in nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) expression and markers of mitochondrial biogenesis in acutely and chronically exercised human skeletal muscle.


The impact of acute submaximal endurance (END) and supramaximal interval (Tabata) cycling on the upregulation of Nrf2 (and its downstream targets), nuclear respiratory factor-1 (NRF-1) and mitochondrial transcription factor A (TFAM) mRNA expression was examined in healthy young males (n = 10). The relationship between changes in citrate synthase (CS) maximal activity and the protein content of Nrf2, heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1), NRF-1, and TFAM was also investigated following 4 weeks of Tabata in a separate group of males (n = 21).


Nrf2, NRF-1, and HO-1 mRNA expression increased after acute exercise (p < 0.05), whereas the increase in superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) mRNA expression approached significance (p = 0.08). Four weeks of Tabata increased CS activity and Nrf2, NRF-1, and TFAM protein content (p < 0.05), but decreased HO-1 protein content (p < 0.05). Training-induced changes in Nrf2 protein were strongly correlated with NRF-1 (r = 0.63, p < 0.01). When comparing protein content changes between individuals with the largest (HI: + 23%) and smallest (LO: − 1%) observed changes in CS activity (n = 8 each), increases in Nrf2 and TFAM protein content were apparent in the HI group only (p < 0.02) with medium-to-large effect sizes for between-group differences in changes in Nrf2 (ηp2=0.15) and TFAM (ηp2 = 0.12) protein content.


Altogether, our findings support a potential role for Nrf2 in exercise-induced mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle.

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