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Neuroreport. 2019 Jun 12;30(9):619-627. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000001239.

Intensive treadmill exercise increases expression of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α and its downstream transcript targets: a potential role in neuroplasticity.

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Department of Neurology.
Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA.


Exercise and other forms of physical activity lead to the activation of specific motor and cognitive circuits within the mammalian brain. These activated neuronal circuits are subjected to increased metabolic demand and must respond to transient but significant reduction in available oxygen. The transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) is a regulatory mediator of a wide spectrum of genes involved in metabolism, synaptogenesis, and blood flow. The purpose of this study was to begin to explore the potential relationship between exercise in the form of running on a motorized treadmill and the activation of genes involved in exercise-dependent neuroplasticity to begin to elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms involved. Mice were subjected to treadmill exercise and striatal tissues analyzed with a commercial microarray designed to identify transcripts whose expression is altered by exposure to hypoxia, a condition occurring in cells under a high metabolic demand. Several candidate genes were identified, and a subset involved in metabolism and angiogenesis were selected to elucidate their temporal and regional patterns of expression with exercise. Transcript analysis included Hif1a (hypoxia-inducible factor 1α), Ldha (lactate dehydrogenase A), Slc2a1 (glucose transporter 1), Slc16a1 (monocarboxylate transporter 1), Slc16a7 (monocarboxylate transporter 2), and Vegf (vascular endothelial growth factor). Overall these results indicate that several genes involved in the elevated metabolic response with exercise are consistent with increased expression of HIF-1α suggesting a regulatory role for HIF-1α in exercise-enhanced neuroplasticity. Furthermore, these increases in gene expression appear regionally specific; occurring with brain regions we have previously shown to be sites for increased cerebral blood flow with activity. Such findings are beginning to lay down a working hypothesis that specific forms of exercise lead to circuit specific neuronal activation and can identify a potentially novel therapeutic approach to target dysfunctional behaviors subserved by such circuitry.

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