Aim: Resistance exercise performed at low loads (20–30% of maximal strength) with blood flow restriction (BFR) acutely increases protein synthesis and induces hypertrophy when performed chronically. We investigated myogenic and proteolytic mRNA expression 8 h following an acute bout of knee extension exercise.
Methods: Fifteen subjects (22.8 ± 3.7 years, eight men and seven women) were randomized to two exercise conditions: BFR or control exercise. All participants performed four sets of exercise (30, 15, 15 and 15 repetitions) at 20% of maximal strength. Persons in the BFR group had a cuff placed on the upper thigh inflated to 1.5 times brachial systolic blood pressure (cuff pressure range: 135–186 mmHg). Muscle biopsies from the vastus lateralis were excised 24 h before and 8 h following the exercise.
Results: RT-PCR analysis demonstrated no change in myogenic gene expression (insulin-like growth factor-1, MyoD, myogenin, myostatin – a negative regulator) with either exercise condition (P > 0.123). However, BFR exercise downregulated mRNA expression in transcripts associated with proteolytic pathways (FOXO3A, Atrogin-1 and MuRF-1) with no change in the control exercise condition. Specifically, median mRNA expression of FOXO3A decreased by 1.92-fold (P = 0.01), Atrogin-1 by 2.10-fold (P = 0.01) and MuRF-1 by 2.44-fold (P = 0.01).
Conclusion: These data are consistent with the downregulation of proteolytic transcripts observed following high-load resistance exercise. In summary, myogenic genes are unchanged and proteolytic genes associated with muscle remodelling are reduced 8 h following low-load BFR exercise.