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Gene in Focus: Part 28 - PPARGC1A

Posted 526 Days Ago in: Training, Genetics


This week to turn our attention to PPARGC1A, or as we call it at DNAFit, “the one with the long name”. This gene encodes for a protein called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC-1a), which causes some of the positive changes that occur in our body following exercise. One of the ways that exercise can lead to improvements is through something called mitochondrial biogenesis, which is the production of new mitochondria within the muscle itself.

Mitochondria are often called “cells within a cell”, and, as you might remember from school, they are where energy is produced - if we have more mitochondria, then we can better produce this energy, which in turn allows us to exercise for longer, making us fitter. When our muscle cells aren’t getting enough energy to allow us to continue to exercise, then PPARGC1A becomes switched on, allowing for an increase in PGC-1a production. PGC-1a then interacts with other genes such as PPARA and NRF (genes that we also test for at DNAFit), all of which allow these positive adaptations to exercise to occur. The PPARGC1A gene is important, because different versions of this gene allow more or less of this protein to be produced, which can affect how well we respond to certain types of training. Typically, we would expect GG genotypes to produce more of this protein, and AA genotypes to produce the least.


One paper that has looked at differences in PPARGC1A genotype and its effect on performance was published in 2005 in the Journal of Applied Physiology. In this study a group of World-Class Spanish male endurance athletes (runners and cyclists) were compared to a group of unfit UK males, to see if there was any difference in PPARGC1A genotypes between them. The researchers found that the A allele of PPARGC1A was less common in the Spanish athletes, and in turn much more common in the group of British males. As a second part of this study, the UK subjects underwent a VO2max test, which measures how good a person is at using oxygen during exercise - typically the more aerobically fit a person is, the higher their VO2max. Following this test, the researchers ranked the subjects into two groups - those classed as “fit”, and those classed as “unfit”. Within this second part of the study, it was found that the A allele of PPARGC1A was less common in the “fit” group compared to the “unfit” group. Overall, the A allele of PPARGC1A was found in just under 30% of world-class endurance athletes in this sample, compared to just under 35% of “fit” controls, and 40% of “unfit” controls. A number of other researcher papers has confirmed the role that this gene plays in response to endurance exercise.


So what does this all mean for you? Well, at DNAFit we look at 15 different genes that affect how well you respond to certain types of training as part of our Peak Performance algorithm, and, as you might have guessed, one of those genes is PPARGC1A. When looking at this gene alone, the table below summarises what we might typically expect to see:


PPARGC1A Genotype



The GG genotype is associated with a more positive response to endurance training, suggesting that it should comprise a greater part of a training programme.


The A allele is associated with a smaller response to endurance training, suggesting that power training might be more appropriate.


Gene in focus Genetics Training Exercise PPARGC1A


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