Exercise improves health through changes in DNA

Newswise – While regular exercise is generally known to reduce the risk of virtually all chronic diseases, the mechanisms behind it are not fully understood. Now scientists at the University of Copenhagen have found that the positive effects of exercise are partly due to changes in the structure of our DNA. These changes are called “epigenetic”.

DNA is the molecular instruction manual found in all of our cells. Some sections of our DNA are genes that give instructions on how to make proteins – the building blocks of the body – while other sections are called enhancers, which regulate which genes are turned on or off when and in which tissue. Scientists first found that exercise rewires the amplifiers in regions of our DNA that are known to be linked to risk of disease.

“Our results provide a mechanism for the well-known beneficial effects of exercise. By linking each enhancer to a gene, we also provide a list of direct targets that could mediate this effect, ”says Professor Romain Barrès of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, lead author of the study published in Molecular. Metabolism was published.

Exercise improves the health of organs including the brain

The team of scientists hypothesized that endurance training rearranged the activity of gene amplifiers in skeletal muscles. They recruited healthy young men and put them through a six-week cardio training program. The scientists took a biopsy of her thigh muscle before and after the training intervention and examined whether there were changes in the epigenetic signature of her DNA after training.

The scientists found that after completing the cardio training program, the structure of many enhancers in the skeletal muscles of the young men had changed. By linking the enhancers to genetic databases, they discovered that many of the regulated enhancers were already identified as hotspots of genetic variation between individuals – hotspots that have been linked to human disease.

Scientists speculate that the beneficial effects of exercise on organs distant from the muscle, such as the brain, are largely mediated by regulating the secretion of muscle factors. Specifically, they found that exercise reshapes enhancer activity in skeletal muscle associated with cognitive abilities, allowing the identification of exercise-induced secreted muscle factors that target the brain.

“Our data demonstrate a functional relationship between epigenetic rewiring of amplifiers to control post-exercise activity and modulation of disease risk in humans,” said Assistant Professor Kristine Williams, lead author of this study.