Death Marker Protein Promotes Muscle Cleanup Following Exercise

In a new study published in the FASEB Journal, researchers have shown how exercise causes a protein to promote muscle cleanup and keep them in a good state.

Physical Exercise

Physical Exercise

University of Copenhagen researchers, in collaboration with counterparts from the University of Sydney, Australia, found that the protein Ubiquitin sets off the degradation of depleted proteins. This keeps washed-out proteins from building up to cause a problem to muscles.

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The team observed that a bike ride lasting about 10 minutes boosts the activity of the “death marker” protein drastically. This creates room for the buildup of fresh, healthy protein as depleted ones are removed.

Benefits of physical activity

An improved muscular function is just one of the many benefits that exercise offers. This, in turn, promotes a healthy metabolism.

Researchers have known before now that physical activity is beneficial to the health of muscles. There was already knowledge of the regulation of new protein creation by muscles while exercising.

It was unclear, however, how muscles are cleaned up during physical exercise. This new research fills the knowledge gap in this aspect.

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“The important role of Ubiquitin for ‘cleaning-up’ worn-out proteins in connection with muscular activity was not fully appreciated,” said Professor Bente Kiens, a study participant. “Now we know that physical activity increases Ubiquitin tagging on worn-out proteins.”

The scientists said that their study revealed that the use of muscles for physical activity intrinsically controls the processes that lead to muscle cleanup to keep the cells healthy.

Putting muscles in good shape

To reach their conclusions, the research team focused on six healthy men between 26 and 28 years of age. These subjects, who were untrained, were asked to ride an exercise bike for eight to 11 minutes.

The investigators took blood samples for testing before and after the bike ride. They also took muscle biopsies, which they examined with mass spectrometry.

Kiens and his colleagues observed that physical activity led to increased use of Ubiquitin for cleaning up worn-out proteins. The protein facilitated the elimination of damaged proteins in a fashion that enables proper replacement with new, healthy proteins.

Read Also: Too Much Exercising Can Hurt Decision Making

Eric Richter, a professor of molecular physiology at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Sports, said Ubiquitin is just one of multiple ways by which muscles get rid of damaged proteins.

“One of these methods is when Ubiquitin, ‘the death marker,’ tags a protein in question,” he said. “Ubiquitin itself is a small protein. It attaches itself to the amino acid Lysine on worn-out proteins, after which the protein is transported to a Proteasome, which is a structure that gobbles up proteins and spits them out as amino acids.”

Richter explained that these amino acids can be used all over again for creating fresh proteins. This provides more building blocks for muscles in a viable manner.

According to the researchers, there is a need for further studies. Not much is known at the moment about what effects diverse training routines, diets, and other factors can have on this cleanup process.


Quantification of exercise‐regulated ubiquitin signaling in human skeletal muscle identifies protein modification cross talk via NEDDylation





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