European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 96, Issue 4, pp 363–369 | Cite as

Regular endurance training reduces the exercise induced HIF-1α and HIF-2α mRNA expression in human skeletal muscle in normoxic conditions

  • Carsten LundbyEmail author
  • Max Gassmann
  • Henriette Pilegaard
Original Article


Regular exercise induces a variety of adaptive responses that enhance the oxidative and metabolic capacity of human skeletal muscle. Although the physiological adjustments of regular exercise have been known for decades, the underlying mechanisms are still unclear. The hypoxia inducible factors 1 and 2 (HIFs) are clearly related heterodimeric transcription factors that consist of an oxygen-depended α-subunit and a constitutive β-subunit. With hypoxic exposure, HIF-1α and HIF-2α protein are stabilized. Upon heterodimerization, HIFs induce the transcription of a variety of genes including erythropoietin (EPO), transferrin and its receptor, as well as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptor. Considering that several of these genes are also induced with exercise, we tested the hypothesis that the mRNA level of HIF-1α and HIF-2α subunits increases with a single exercise bout, and that this response is blunted with training. We obtained muscle biopsies from a trained (5 days/week during 4 weeks) and untrained leg from the same human subject before, immediately after, and during the recovery from a 3 h two-legged knee extensor exercise bout, where the two legs exercised at the same absolute workload. In the untrained leg, the exercise bout induced an increase (P<0.05) in HIF-1α fold and HIF-2α fold mRNA at 6 h of recovery. In contrast, HIF-1α and HIF-2α mRNA levels were not altered at any time point in the trained leg. Obviously, HIF-1α and HIF-2α mRNA levels are transiently increased in untrained human skeletal muscle in response to an acute exercise bout, but this response is blunted after exercise training. We propose that HIFs expression is upregulated with exercise and that it may be an important transcription factor that regulates adaptive gene responses to exercise.


Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Human Skeletal Muscle Exercise Bout Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Gene Prior Optimization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Lara Ogunshola, Stephan Keller, and Bengt Saltin are thanked for their fruitful discussions throughout the study and while preparing the manuscript. Max Gassmann is founded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Henriette Pilegaard and Carsten Lundby is founded by The Danish Medical Research Council and The Danish Natural Science Research Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carsten Lundby
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Max Gassmann
    • 3
  • Henriette Pilegaard
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Copenhagen Muscle Research CentreCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.RigshospitaletCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.Vetsuisse Faculty and Zürich Center for Integrative Human Physiology (ZIPH)University of ZürichZürichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Institute of Molecular Biology and Physiology, The August Krogh Institute University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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