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Keywords:

  • equine;
  • exercise;
  • gene expression;
  • myostatin;
  • skeletal muscle;
  • training

Summary

Myostatin, encoded by the MSTN gene, is a member of the TGF-β superfamily that regulates skeletal muscle development. A MSTN SNP significantly associated with Thoroughbred horse racing phenotypes has recently been identified as well as significant reductions in Thoroughbred skeletal muscle gene expression for three transcripts 400–1500 base pairs downstream of the MSTN gene following a period of training. Together, these findings indicate that MSTN genotypes may influence MSTN gene expression. To investigate this, MSTN mRNA expression was measured in biopsies from the middle gluteal muscle from 60 untrained yearling Thoroughbreds (C/C,= 15; C/T, n = 28; T/T, n = 17) using two independent real-time qRT-PCR assays. MSTN gene expression was also evaluated in a subset (= 33) of these animals using samples collected after a ten-month period of training. A significant association was observed between genotype and mRNA abundance for the untrained horses (assay I, = 0.0237; assay II, = 0.003559), with the C/C cohort having the highest MSTN mRNA levels, the T/T group the lowest levels and the C/T group intermediate levels. Following training, there was a significant decrease in MSTN mRNA (−3.35-fold; P = 6.9 × 10−7), which was most apparent for the C/C cohort (−5.88-fold, = 0.001). These data demonstrate the tight relationship between phenotype, genotype and gene expression at the MSTN gene in Thoroughbred racehorses.