Dynamic regulation of circulating microRNA during acute exhaustive exercise and sustained aerobic exercise training

J Physiol. 2011 Aug 15;589(Pt 16):3983-94. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.213363. Epub 2011 Jun 20.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are intracellular mediators of essential biological functions. Recently, plasma-based 'circulating' miRNAs (c-miRNAs) have been shown to control cellular processes, but the c-miRNA response to human exercise remains unknown. We sought to determine whether c-miRNAs are dynamically regulated in response to acute exhaustive cycling exercise and sustained rowing exercise training using a longitudinal, repeated measures study design. Specifically, c-miRNAs involved in angiogenesis (miR-20a, miR-210, miR-221, miR-222, miR-328), inflammation (miR-21, miR-146a), skeletal and cardiac muscle contractility (miR-21, miR-133a), and hypoxia/ischaemia adaptation (miR-21, miR-146a, and miR-210) were measured at rest and immediately following acute exhaustive cycling exercise in competitive male rowers (n = 10, age = 19.1 ± 0.6 years) before and after a 90 day period of rowing training. Distinct patterns of c-miRNA response to exercise were observed and adhered to four major profiles: (1) c-miRNA up-regulated by acute exercise before and after sustained training (miR-146a and miR-222), (2) c-miRNA responsive to acute exercise before but not after sustained training (miR-21 and miR-221), (3) c-miRNA responsive only to sustained training (miR-20a), and (4) non-responsive c-miRNA (miR-133a, miR-210, miR-328). Linear correlations were observed between peak exercise levels of miR-146a and VO2max (r = 0.63, P = 0.003) and between changes in resting miR-20a and changes in VO2max (pre-training vs. post-training, r = 0.73; P = 0.02). Although future work is required, these results suggest the potential value of c-miRNAs as exercise biomarkers and their possible roles as physiological mediators of exercise-induced cardiovascular adaptation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Athletes*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • MicroRNAs / physiology
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • MicroRNAs