Are Calcineurin Genes Associated with Athletic Status? A Function, Replication Study


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 8 - pp 1433-1440
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31820e7f38
Basic Sciences

Purpose: Polymorphisms in calcineurin genes are candidates to explain individual variations in endurance sports performance owing to the pivotal role that the calcineurin signaling pathway plays in the regulation of important cardiac and skeletal muscle phenotypes.

Methods: We compared genotypic/allelic frequencies in 55 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) of the five genes (PPP3CA, PPP3CB, PPP3CC, PPP3R1, and PPP3R2) encoding the calcineurin protein subunits between 123 elite runners (cases, n = 61 women) and 125 healthy nonathletes (controls, n = 56 women) from the same ethnic background (Han Chinese) and used the dual-luciferase reporter assay to analyze the functional significance of the associated SNP.

Results: The C allele of the PPP3CA rs3804358 polymorphism was overrepresented in athletes (17%) compared with controls (8%) (P = 0.003), whereas the T allele of the PPP3CB rs3763679 polymorphism was underrepresented in athletes (23%) compared with controls (37%) (P = 0.001). The luciferase reporter constructs containing C allele of the rs3804358 and rs3763679 polymorphisms produced significantly greater luciferase activity than that of the G or T alleles, respectively. However, the results on the two aforementioned polymorphisms were not corroborated in a Caucasian (Spanish) cohort of male elite endurance athletes (n = 100) and nonathletic male controls (n = 175).

Conclusions: Although there are large differences between ethnicities and more research is needed, our findings suggest that intronic polymorphisms of the calcineurin genes have functional significance and show evidence of association with elite endurance performance in the northern Han Chinese population.

1Biology Center, China Institute of Sport Science, Beijing, CHINA; 2Science and Research Center of Beijing Sports University, Beijing, CHINA; 3Department of Biomedicine, Universidad Europea de Madrid, Madrid, SPAIN; and 4Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at NOVUM, Unit for Preventive Nutrition, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, SWEDEN

Address for correspondence: Yang Hu, Ph.D., Science and Research Center of Beijing Sports University, Beijing, 100084, China; E-mail:

Submitted for publication October 2010.

Accepted for publication January 2011.

©2011The American College of Sports Medicine