Specific circulating microRNAs display dose-dependent responses to variable intensity and duration of endurance exercise

Anna E. Ramos, Claire Lo, Leonard E. Estephan, Yi Yin Tai, Ying Tang, Jingsi Zhao, Masataka Sugahara, John Gorcsan, Marcel G. Brown, Daniel E. Lieberman, Stephen Y. Chan, Aaron L. Baggish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Circulating microRNAs (c-miRNAs), plasma-based noncoding RNAs that control posttranscriptional gene expression, mediate processes that underlie phenotypical plasticity to exercise. The relationship and biological relevance between c-miRNA expression and variable dose exercise exposure remains uncertain. We hypothesized that certain c-miRNAs respond to changes in exercise intensity and/or duration in a dose-dependent fashion. Muscle release of such c-miRNAs may then deplete intracellular stores, thus facilitating gene reprogramming and exercise adaptation. To address these hypotheses, healthy men participated in variable intensity (n = 12, 30 × 1 min at 6, 7, and 8 miles/h, order randomized) and variable duration (n = 14, 7 × 1 mile/h for 30, 60, and 90 min, order randomized) treadmill-running protocols. Muscle-enriched c-miRNAs (i.e., miRNA-1 and miRNA-133a) and others with known relevance to exercise were measured before and after exercise. c-miRNA responses followed three profiles: 1) nonresponsive (miRNA-21 and miRNA-210), 2) responsive to exercise at some threshold but without dose dependence (miRNA-24 and miRNA-146a), and 3) responsive to exercise with dose dependence to increasing intensity (miRNA-1) or duration (miRNA-133a and miRNA-222). We also studied aerobic exercise-trained mice, comparing control, low-intensity (0.5 km/h), or high-intensity (1 km/h) treadmill-running protocols over 4 wk. In high-but not low-intensity-trained mice, we found increased plasma c-miR-133a along with decreased intracellular miRNA-133a and increased serum response factor, a known miR-133a target gene, in muscle. Characterization of c-miRNAs that are dose responsive to exercise in humans and mice supports the notion that they directly mediate physiological adaptation to exercise, potentially through depletion of intracellular stores of muscle-specific miRNAs. NEW & NOTEWORTHY In this study of humans and mice, we define circulating microRNAs in plasma that are dose responsive to exercise. Our data support the notion that these microRNAs mediate physiological adaptation to exercise potentially through depletion of intracellular stores of muscle-specific microRNAs and releasing their inhibitory effects on target gene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H273-H283
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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