While most muscles in mammals contain a mixture of slow- and fast-twitch fiber types, some muscle beds are enriched for one type or the other, Spiegelman said. However, adult skeletal muscles also contain fibers with an abundance of a fourth MHC, type IIX, about which much less is known.
IIX fibers seem to have the oxidative metabolism of slow-twitch fibers mixed with the biophysical properties of fast-twitch fibers. Oxidative metabolism is by far the most efficient way of generating energy, Spiegelman said.
In the current study, the researchers produced mice with higher than normal levels of the transcriptional coactivator PGC-1â in their skeletal muscles. Transcriptional coactivators work with other cellular factors and machinery to control the activity of other genes. While earlier studies had found that the related coactivator PGC-1â plays a role in determining muscle type, the role of PGC-1â wasn't known.
"The muscle from the PGC-1â transgenic mice was strikingly redder in appearance than wild-type controls," indicative of their increased mitochondrial content, the researchers now report. Upon further examination, the researchers were surprised to find that the fibers showed a reduction in I, IIA, and IIB MHCs and as much as a 5-fold increase in IIX MHC.
Nearly 100% of muscle fibers in the transgenic animals contained abundant MHC IIX mRNA and protein, they found, as compared to only 15%?0% in normal animals. PGC-1â also changed the muscles' metabolic characteristics by driving the activity of genes that spark proliferation of mitochondria.
The PGC-1â animals with more IIX muscle fibers showed a greater capacity for aerobic exercise, they found. Transgenic mice were able to run, on average, for 32.5 min to exhaustion, compared to 26 min for t