The stiffness response of type IIa fibres after eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage is dependent on ACTN3 r577X polymorphism.
The aim of the study was to determine the effect of alpha-actinin-3 (ACTN3) deficiency (XX) on muscle damage induced by an eccentric exercise bout. In this purpose, 4 RR and 4 XX individuals performed an intensive eccentric knee flexion exercise on an isokinetic dynamometer. Muscle biopsies, blood and pain scores were taken before and after the exercise to determine the extent of the exercise-induced damage and the effect of the ACTN3 R577X polymorphism. Maximal isometric strength of the quadriceps and single fibre properties were compared before and after the exercise. The drop in maximal isometric strength of the quadriceps at 45 degrees knee flexion following the eccentric exercise bout was on average 37% 24 h post-exercise. The decrease in force was also apparent in isolated type IIa fibres (8%; P = 0.02), but not in type I fibres (P = 0.88). Creatine kinase and myoglobin plasma levels increased in all participants at least by 55% and 87%, respectively (P < 0.05). In addition, mRNA levels of markers for muscle regeneration and muscle remodelling increased after the eccentric exercise (P < 0.05), however, independently from ACTN3 R577X genotype. The mRNA level of nuclear factor of activated T-cells 1 (NFATc1) decreased after the eccentric exercise only in XX genotypes (P < 0.05). The stiffness of type IIa, but not type I muscle fibres increased only in RR individuals after the eccentric exercise (P < 0.05). While no major effect of alpha-actinin-3 deficiency on susceptibility to muscle damage was found acutely, the increased stiffness response in fast RR fibres might be a protection mechanism from muscle damage during a subsequent eccentric exercise bout.