The Potential Role of Myostatin and Neurotransmission Genes in Elite Sport Performances

J Biosci. 2015 Sep;40(3):531-7. doi: 10.1007/s12038-015-9542-4.


Elite athletes are those who represent their sport at such major competition as the Olympic Games or World contests. The most outstanding athletes appear to emerge as a result of endogenous biologic characteristics interacting with exogenous influences of the environment, often described as a 'Nature and Nurture' struggle. In this work, we assessed the contribution given by 4 genes involved in muscles development (MSTN) and behavioural insights (5HTT, DAT and MAOA) to athletic performances. As for neurotransmission, 5HTT, DAT and MAOA genes have been considered as directly involved in the management of aggressiveness and anxiety. Genotypes and allelic frequencies of 5HTTLPR, MAOA-u VNTR, DAT VNTR and MSTN K153R were determined in 50 elite athletes and compared with 100 control athletes. In this work we found a significant correlation between the dopamine transporter genotype 9/9 and allele 9 and elite sport performances. On the contrary, no association was found between muscle development regulation or serotonin pathway and elite performances. Our data, for the first time, suggest a strong role of dopamine neurotransmitter in determining sport success, highlighting the role of emotional control and psycological management to reach high-level performances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monoamine Oxidase / genetics*
  • Myostatin / genetics*
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Synaptic Transmission / genetics*


  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • MSTN protein, human
  • Myostatin
  • SLC6A3 protein, human
  • SLC6A4 protein, human
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Serotonin
  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • monoamine oxidase A, human