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Sports Med. 2001;31(13):919-34.

Role of creatine kinase isoenzymes on muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance: genetic and molecular evidence.

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Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico at Cayey.


The ability to perform well in activities that require muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance is a trait influenced, in a considerable part, by the genetic make-up of individuals. Early studies of performance and recent scans of the human genome have pointed at various candidate genes responsible for the heterogeneity of these phenotypes within the population. Among these are the genes for the various creatine kinase (CK) isoenzyme subunits. CK and phosphocreatine (PCr) form an important metabolic system for temporal and spatial energy buffering in cells with large variations in energy demand. The different CK isoenzyme subunits (CK-M and CK-B) are differentially expressed in the tissues of the body. Although CK-M is the predominant form in both skeletal and cardiac muscle, CK-B is expressed to a greater extent in heart than in skeletal muscle. Studies in humans and mice have shown that the expression of CK-B messenger RNA (mRNA) and the abundance and activity of the CK-MB dimer increase in response to cardiorespiratory endurance training. Increases in muscle tissue CK-B content can be energetically favourable because of its lower Michaelis constant (Km) for ADP. The activity of the mitochondrial isoform of CK (Scmit-CK) has also been significantly and positively correlated to oxidative capacity and to CK-MB activity in muscle. In mice where the CK-M gene has been knocked out, significant increases in fatigue resistance together with cellular adaptations increasing aerobic capacity have been observed. These observations have led to the notion that this enzyme may be responsible for fatigue under normal circumstances, most likely because of the local cell compartment increase in inorganic phosphate concentration. Studies where the Scmit-CK gene was knocked out have helped demonstrate that this isoenzyme is very important for the stimulation of aerobic respiration. Human studies of CK-M gene sequence variation have shown a significant association between a polymorphism, distinguished by the NcoI restriction enzyme, and an increase in cardiorespiratory endurance as indexed by maximal oxygen uptake following 20 weeks of training. In conclusion, there is now evidence at the tissue, cell and molecular level indicating that the CK-PCr system plays an important role in determining the phenotypes of muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance. It is envisioned that newer technologies will help determine how the genetic variability of these genes (and many others) impact on performance and health-related phenotypes.

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