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PLoS One. 2008 Jan 2;3(1):e1385. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001385.

Sex-related differences in gene expression in human skeletal muscle.

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Department of Medicine, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, USA.


There is sexual dimorphism of skeletal muscle, the most obvious feature being the larger muscle mass of men. The molecular basis for this difference has not been clearly defined. To identify genes that might contribute to the relatively greater muscularity of men, we compared skeletal muscle gene expression profiles of 15 normal men and 15 normal women by using comprehensive oligonucleotide microarrays. Although there were sex-related differences in expression of several hundred genes, very few of the differentially expressed genes have functions that are obvious candidates for explaining the larger muscle mass of men. The men tended to have higher expression of genes encoding mitochondrial proteins, ribosomal proteins, and a few translation initiation factors. The women had >2-fold greater expression than the men (P<0.0001) of two genes that encode proteins in growth factor pathways known to be important in regulating muscle mass: growth factor receptor-bound 10 (GRB10) and activin A receptor IIB (ACVR2B). GRB10 encodes a protein that inhibits insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) signaling. ACVR2B encodes a myostatin receptor. Quantitative RT-PCR confirmed higher expression of GRB10 and ACVR2B genes in these women. In an independent microarray study of 10 men and 9 women with facioscapulohumeral dystrophy, women had higher expression of GRB10 (2.7-fold, P<0.001) and ACVR2B (1.7-fold, P<0.03). If these sex-related differences in mRNA expression lead to reduced IGF-1 activity and increased myostatin activity, they could contribute to the sex difference in muscle size.

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