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Regulation of satellite cells by exercise in hypoxic conditions: a narrative review



To investigate in vivo the adaptations of satellite cell induced by exercise performed in acute or chronic hypoxic conditions and their contribution to muscle remodeling and hypertrophy.


Search terms related to exercise, hypoxia and satellite cells were entered on Embase, PubMed and Scopus. Studies were selected for their relevance in terms of regulation of satellite cells by in vivo exercise and muscle contraction in hypoxic conditions.


Satellite cell activation and proliferation seem to be enabled after acute hypoxic exercise via regulations induced by myogenic regulatory factors. Several studies reported also a role of the inflammatory pathway nuclear factor-kappa B and angiogenic factors such as vascular endothelial growth factor, both known to upregulate myogenesis. By stimulating angiogenesis, repeated exercise performed in acute hypoxia might contribute to satellite cell activation. Contrary to such exercise conditions, chronic exposure to hypoxia downregulates myogenesis despite the maintenance of physical activity. This impaired myogenesis might be induced by excessive oxidative stress and proteolysis.


In vivo studies suggest that, in comparison to exercise or hypoxia alone, exercise performed in a hypoxic environment, may improve or impair muscle remodeling induced by contractile activity depending upon the duration of hypoxia. Satellite cells seem to be major actors in these dichotomous adaptations. Further research on the role of angiogenesis, types of contraction and autophagy is needed for a better understanding of their respective role in hypoxic exercise-induced modulations of satellite cell activity in human.

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Fig. 1

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Cluster of differentiation


Fibroblast growth factor


Hepatocyte growth factor


Hypoxia-inducible factor


Insulin-like growth factor




Myosin heavy chain


Micro RNA


Myogenic regulatory factors


Myogenic factor 5


Myogenic differentiation


Nitric oxide


Paired box 7


Proliferating cell nuclear antigen


Peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma coactivator 1 alpha


Protein phosphatase 2 catalytic subunit, alpha isoform


Protein tyrosine phosphatase, non-receptor type 3


Reactive oxygen species


Tumor necrosis factor


Vascular endothelial growth factor


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MF is supported by the Sports Ministry of the Brussels-Wallonia Federation and the Sports Performance Assistance Centre (SPAC).


This research received no external funding.

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S.v.D.d.t.R. wrote the first draft, drew the figure and made the summarizing table. L.D. and M.F. corrected the draft and L.D. wrote the final version that was approved by M.F. and S.v.D.d.t.R. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Louise Deldicque.

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van Doorslaer de ten Ryen, S., Francaux, M. & Deldicque, L. Regulation of satellite cells by exercise in hypoxic conditions: a narrative review. Eur J Appl Physiol 121, 1531–1542 (2021).

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  • Angiogenesis
  • Autophagy
  • Hypertrophy
  • Hypoxia
  • Inflammation
  • Satellite cell
  • Skeletal muscle