Elite athletes are those who represent their sport at such major competition as the Olympic Games or World contests. The most outstanding athletes appear to emerge as a result of endogenous biologic characteristics interacting with exogenous influences of the environment, often described as a ‘Nature and Nurture’ struggle. In this work, we assessed the contribution given by 4 genes involved in muscles development (MSTN) and behavioural insights (5HTT, DAT and MAOA) to athletic performances. As for neurotransmission, 5HTT, DAT and MAOA genes have been considered as directly involved in the management of aggressiveness and anxiety.
Genotypes and allelic frequencies of 5HTTLPR, MAOA-u VNTR, DAT VNTR and MSTN K153R were determined in 50 elite athletes and compared with 100 control athletes.
In this work we found a significant correlation between the dopamine transporter genotype 9/9 and allele 9 and elite sport performances. On the contrary, no association was found between muscle development regulation or serotonin pathway and elite performances. Our data, for the first time, suggest a strong role of dopamine neurotransmitter in determining sport success, highlighting the role of emotional control and psycological management to reach high-level performances.
Dopamine elite sport performance gene polymorphism myostatin neurotransmission serotonin
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The authors are thankful to all those who collaborated in samples collection or establishing contact with elite athletes: Pasquale Abeti (Track and Field), Alessandro Tombolini and Giuseppe Montenet (ATP Tennis), Federica Maldini (WTA Tennis), Ivan Carminati (English Premiere League Soccer), Dr Massimo Manara (Italian Serie A Soccer), Mariachiara Franchini (Italian Professional Basketball Federation), Andrea Giani (Italian Professional Volleyball League), Dr Alberto Rusconi (European Top 11 Rugby League) and Alessandra Blanchet (Canoeing).
SC benefited from a Postdoctoral grant given by the Portuguese FCT (Fundação Para a Ciência e Tecnologia).
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