Epigenetic changes in leukocytes after 8 weeks of resistance exercise training

Joshua Denham, Francine Z. Marques, Emma L. Bruns, Brendan J. O’Brien, Fadi J. Charchar

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Regular engagement in resistance exercise training elicits many health benefits including improvement to muscular strength, hypertrophy and insulin sensitivity, though the underpinning molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to determine the influence 8 weeks of resistance exercise training has on leukocyte genome-wide DNA methylation and gene expression in healthy young men. Methods: Eight young (21.1 ± 2.2 years) men completed one repetition maximum (1RM) testing before completing 8 weeks of supervised, thrice-weekly resistance exercise training comprising three sets of 8–12 repetitions with a load equivalent to 80 % of 1RM. Blood samples were collected at rest before and after the 8-week training intervention. Genome-wide DNA methylation and gene expression were assessed on isolated leukocyte DNA and RNA using the 450K BeadChip and HumanHT-12 v4 Expression BeadChip (Illumina), respectively. Results: Resistance exercise training significantly improved upper and lower body strength concurrently with diverse genome-wide DNA methylation and gene expression changes (p ≤ 0. 01). DNA methylation changes occurred at multiple regions throughout the genome in context with genes and CpG islands, and in genes relating to axon guidance, diabetes and immune pathways. There were multiple genes with increased expression that were enriched for RNA processing and developmental proteins. Growth factor genes—GHRH and FGF1—showed differential methylation and mRNA expression changes after resistance training. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that resistance exercise training improves muscular strength and is associated with reprogramming of the leukocyte DNA methylome and transcriptome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1245-1253
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenome
  • mRNA expression
  • Strength training
  • Transcriptome

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