New findings represent the first aerobic capacity QTLs identified in genetic models

New Orleans, LA It is not by the pure chance of nature that some individuals have enhanced aerobic capacity. The ability to sustain efficient oxygen utilization is a quantitative trait influenced by the interaction of multiple genetic and environmental factors. This has been evidenced by previous studies on the genetic nature of aerobic endurance capacity in humans that suggest that between 70-90 percent of the total phenotypic (characteristics devolved from the interaction of genes to the environment) variance can be attributed to an inherited genetic component.


Fitness tests of aerobic capacity are used to assess cardio-respiratory function and as a general test of overall physical health status. It has been readily accepted that certain levels of physical fitness are strong predictors of cardiovascular disease and overall rate of death. Despite evidence and evolutionary support that aerobic exercise capacity is an inherited trait of primary importance, the underlying genes remain undefined.

The most important environmental factor contributing to aerobic capacity is exercise, activity known to moderate the effect of numerous diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and lipid abnormalities. Most genomic research on aerobic capacity has focused on exercise as a proactive action that affects quantitative measures such as body composition, muscle mass, blood pressure, or disease outcomes such as hypertension or diabetes. For example, a recent genomic scan for maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) in humans revealed that chromosomal regions linked to VO2 max in the untrained (sedentary) state were different from those linked to VO2 max in response to exercise training.

Such results imply that there is a set of genes that determine levels of intrinsic aerobic capacity in the untrained state and apparently another set of genes that dictate the response to aerobic exercise training.

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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