Repeated sprints alter signaling related to mitochondrial biogenesis in humans

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 May;44(5):827-34. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318240067e.


Purpose: We investigated the effects of acute and chronic repeated-sprint exercise (RSE) on the skeletal muscle messenger RNA (mRNA) expression and protein abundance/phosphorylation associated with mitochondrial biogenesis.

Methods: Ten healthy young adults (seven males, three females) performed the RSE trial, comprising three sets of 5 × 4-s maximal sprints on a nonmotorized treadmill, with a 20-s recovery between sprints and 4.5 min between sets. After 4 wk of repeated-sprint training, three times per week, participants repeated the RSE. A vastus lateralis muscle biopsy was obtained at rest, immediately after, and 1 and 4 h after RSE, before and after training. Venous blood lactate and glucose were measured at rest and during recovery. Real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction and Western blot techniques were used to measure mRNA expression and protein abundance, respectively.

Results: Acute RSE increased the phosphorylation of acetyl-CoA carboxylase (86%, effect size (ES) = 1.4 ± 0.8, P < 0.001) and Ca calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (69%, ES = 0.7 ± 0.6). Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator 1α (PGC-1α; 208%, ES = 1.5 ± 0.7, P < 0.001) and nuclear respiratory factor 1 (92%, ES = 0.7 ± 0.8) mRNA expression was increased after RSE. Four weeks of training increased the abundance of PGC-1α protein at rest (33%, ES = 0.9 ± 0.7).

Conclusions: Both acute and chronic RSE, despite only 60 s and 12 min of exercise, respectively, altered the molecular signaling associated with mitochondrial adaptations and PGC-1α mRNA expression in skeletal muscle. However, the small-to-moderate changes in resting PGC-1α protein abundance after training, together with the absence of changes in aerobic fitness, require further research to understand the functional significance of PGC-1α in response to RSE.

MeSH terms

  • Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase / metabolism
  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biopsy
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blotting, Western
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2 / metabolism
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Male
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Respiratory Factor 1 / metabolism
  • PPAR gamma / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Running / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Young Adult


  • Blood Glucose
  • Nuclear Respiratory Factor 1
  • PPAR gamma
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Lactic Acid
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2
  • Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase