Human skeletal muscle macrophages increase following cycle training and are associated with adaptations that may facilitate growth

Sci Rep. 2019 Jan 30;9(1):969. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-37187-1.


Skeletal muscle macrophages participate in repair and regeneration following injury. However, their role in physiological adaptations to exercise is unexplored. We determined whether endurance exercise training (EET) alters macrophage content and characteristics in response to resistance exercise (RE), and whether macrophages are associated with other exercise adaptations. Subjects provided vastus lateralis biopsies before and after one bout of RE, after 12 weeks of EET (cycling), and after a final bout of RE. M2 macrophages (CD11b+/CD206+) did not increase with RE, but increased in response to EET (P < 0.01). Increases in M2 macrophages were positively correlated with fiber hypertrophy (r = 0.49) and satellite cells (r = 0.47). M2c macrophages (CD206+/CD163+) also increased following EET (P < 0.001), and were associated with fiber hypertrophy (r = 0.64). Gene expression was quantified using NanoString. Following EET, the change in M2 macrophages was positively associated with changes in HGF, IGF1, and extracellular matrix genes. EET decreased expression of IL6 (P < 0.05), C/EBPβ (P < 0.01), and MuRF (P < 0.05), and increased expression of IL-4 (P < 0.01), TNFα (P < 0.01) and the TWEAK receptor FN14 (P < 0.05). The change in FN14 gene expression was inversely associated with changes in C/EBPβ (r = -0.58) and MuRF (r = -0.46) following EET. In cultured human myotubes, siRNA inhibition of FN14 increased expression of C/EBPβ (P < 0.05) and MuRF (P < 0.05). Our data suggest that macrophages contribute to the muscle response to EET, potentially including modulation of TWEAK-FN14 signaling.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Protein-beta / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fibronectins / genetics
  • Fibronectins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / growth & development*
  • Physical Endurance
  • Resistance Training*
  • Satellite Cells, Skeletal Muscle / metabolism


  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Protein-beta
  • CEBPB protein, human
  • Fibronectins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • TRIM54 protein, human