Effect of local heat application during exercise on gene expression related to mitochondrial homeostasis

Nattie O’reilly, Christopher Collins, Mark L. McGlynn, Dustin Slivka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The aim of this study was to determine the impact of local muscle heating during endurance exercise on human skeletal muscle mitochondrial-related gene expression. Twelve subjects (25 6 6 yr, 177 6 8 cm, 78 6 16 kg, and peak aerobic capacity 45 6 8 mL·kg–1·min –1 ) cycled with one leg heated (HOT) and the other serving as a control (CON). Skin and intramuscular temperatures were taken before temperature intervention (Pre), after 30 minutes (Pre30), after exercise (Post) and four hours after exercise (4Post). Muscle biopsies were taken from each leg at Pre and 4Post. Intramuscular temperature increased within HOT (34.4 6 0.7 °C to 36.1 6 0.5 °C, p < 0.001) and was higher than CON at Pre30 (34.0 6 0.7 °C, p < 0.001). However, temperatures at POST were similar (HOT 38.4 6 0.7 °C, CON 38.3 6 0.5 °C, p = 0.661). Skin temperature was higher than CON at Post30 (30.3 6 1.0 °C, p < 0.001) and Post (HOT 34.6 6 0.9 °C, CON 32.3 6 1.6 °C, p < 0.001). PGC-1a, VEGF and NRF2 mRNA increased with exercise (p < 0.05) but was not altered with heating (p > 0.05). TFAM increased after exercise with heat application (HOT, p = 0.019) but not with exercise alone (CON, p = 0.422). There was no difference in NRF1, ESRRa, or any of the mitophagy related genes in response to exercise or temperature (p > 0.05). In conclusion, TFAM is enhanced by local heat application during endurance exercise, whereas other genes related to mitochondrial homeostasis are unaffected. Novelty: The main finding of this study is that localized heating increased TFAM mRNA expression. The normal exercise-induced increased PGC-1a gene expression was unaltered by local muscle heating.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1545-1551
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2021


  • Endurance exercise
  • Local heating
  • MRNA
  • PGC-1a
  • Skeletal muscle
  • TFAM


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