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Genetic Basis for the Dominance of Israeli Long-Distance Runners of Ethiopian Origin

Ben-Zaken, Sigal1; Meckel, Yoav1; Nemet, Dan2; Kassem, Eias3; Eliakim, Alon2

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: February 06, 2019 - Volume Publish Ahead of Print - Issue - p
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002989
Original Research: PDF Only

Ben-Zaken, S, Meckel, Y, Nemet, D, Kassem, E, and Eliakim, A. Genetic basis for the dominance of Israeli long-distance runners of Ethiopian origin. J Strength Cond Res XX(X): 000–000, 2018—Israeli long-distance runners of Ethiopian origin have a major influence on the track and field long-distance record table. The aim of this study was to determine whether genetic characteristics contribute to this long-distance dominance. We assessed polymorphisms in genes related to endurance (PPARD T/C), endurance trainability (ACSL A/G), speed (ACTN3 R/X), strength (AGT T/C), and the recovery from training (MTC1 A/T and IL6 G/C) among top Israeli long-distance runners of Ethiopian origin (n = 37), Israeli non-Ethiopian origin runners of Caucasian origin (n = 76), and Israeli nonathletic controls (n = 55). Israeli runners of Ethiopian origin had a greater frequency of the PPARD CC + PARGC1A Gly/Gly polymorphism, associated with improved endurance performance, compared with Israeli runners of non-Ethiopian origins (24 vs. 3%, respectively, p < 0.01); a lower frequency of the ACSL AA polymorphism, favoring endurance trainability (8 vs. 20%, respectively, p < 0.05); a greater frequency of the ACTN3 RR polymorphism, associated with sprint performance (35 vs. 20%, respectively, p < 0.05); a greater frequency of the MCT1 AA genotype, associated with improved lactate transport (65 vs. 45%, respectively, p < 0.05); and a lower frequency of IL-6 174C carriers, associated with reduced postexercise muscle damage (27 vs. 40%, respectively, p < 0.01). There was no difference in the frequency of AGT T/C gene polymorphism between the long-distance runners of Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian origin. Frequencies of PPARD CC + PARGC1A Gly/Gly, MCT1 AA, IL-6 174C, and AGT polymorphism were significantly favorable among Ethiopian, but not among non-Ethiopian, origin runners compared with controls. Taken together, results suggest that genetically, the dominance of Israeli long-distance runners of Ethiopian origin relates not only to endurance polymorphisms but also to polymorphisms associated with enhanced speed performance and better training recovery ability.

1Genetics and Molecular Biology Laboratory, The Zinman College of Physical Education and Sports Sciences at the Wingate Institute, Netanya, Israel;

2Pediatric Department, Meir Medical Center, Child Health and Sports Center, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel; and

3Pediatric Department, Hilel-Yaffe Medical Center, Hadera, Israel

Address correspondence to Sigal Ben-Zaken,

Copyright © 2019 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.