Introduction: Blood flow restriction in combination with low-intensity resistance exercise (REFR) increases skeletal muscle size to a similar extent as compared with traditional high-intensity resistance exercise training. However, there are limited data describing the molecular adaptations that occur after REFR.
Purpose: To determine whether hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1α) and REDD1 mRNA are expressed differently in REFR compared with low-intensity resistance exercise with no blood flow restriction (CONTROL). Secondly, to determine whether low-intensity resistance exercise is able to induce changes in mRNA expression of several anabolic and catabolic genes as typically seen with high-intensity resistance exercise.
Methods: Six subjects were studied at baseline and 3 h after a bout of leg resistance exercise (20% 1RM) in REFR and CONTROL subjects. Each subject participated in both groups, with 3 wk separating each visit. Muscle biopsy samples were analyzed for mRNA expression, using qRT-PCR.
Results: Our primary finding was that there were no differences between CONTROL and REFR for any of the selected genes at 3 h after exercise (P > 0.05). However, low-intensity resistance exercise increased HIF-1α, p21, MyoD, and muscle RING finger 1 (MuRF1) mRNA expression and decreased REDD1 and myostatin mRNA expression in both groups (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: Low-intensity resistance exercise can alter skeletal muscle mRNA expression of several genes associated with muscle growth and remodeling, such as REDD1, HIF-1α, MyoD, MuRF1, and myostatin. Further, the results from REFR and CONTROL were similar, indicating that the changes in early postexercise gene expression were attributable to the low-intensity resistance exercise bout, and not blood flow restriction.