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Gene in Focus - Part 17: VEGF

Posted 511 Days Ago in: Training, Genetics

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This week, we look at a gene that plays a role in both the power/endurance and aerobic trainability aspect of our report. This gene is VEGF, and it creates Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor, which plays a role in the creation of new blood vessels. This is a useful adaptation to aerobic training, because more blood vessels around the muscle mean better, more efficient transport of oxygen, as well as fuel sources such as carbohydrates and fats, to the muscle; this in turn improves how well a person can use oxygen and exercise aerobically. When we exercise, our muscle cells quite often don’t get as much oxygen as they need. This causes the VEGF gene to be “turned on”, with transcription upregulated and more VEGF formed – leading to this increased growth of new blood vessels.

This week, we look at a gene that plays a role in both the power/endurance and aerobic trainability aspect of our report. This gene is VEGF, and it creates Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor, which plays a role in the creation of new blood vessels. This is a useful adaptation to aerobic training, because more blood vessels around the muscle mean better, more efficient transport of oxygen, as well as fuel sources such as carbohydrates and fats, to the muscle; this in turn improves how well a person can use oxygen and exercise aerobically. When we exercise, our muscle cells quite often don’t get as much oxygen as they need. This causes the VEGF gene to be “turned on”, with transcription upregulated and more VEGF formed – leading to this increased growth of new blood vessels.

 

Differences in the VEGF gene, the so-called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) that we are always interested in at DNAFit, could be one of the aspects that cause differences between individuals in terms of VO2max improvements to exercise. A paper published in 2006 tested this in a group of sedentary subjects, putting them through a standardised 24-week aerobic training programme, where they training three times each week for up to 40 minutes at a time. Before and after this training programme, they did a VO2max test, and also had their blood tested for levels of VEGF. What was found by the researchers was that for the SNP within the VEGF gene that we are interested in (rs2010963), the G allele was associated with lower levels of the VEGF protein (indicating lower expression of the VEGF gene), and the C allele with higher levels of the protein (and therefore greater expression of the gene). This in turn had an effect on the improvements in VO2max seen with exercise, with the C allele being associated with greater improvements. Similar results were published by a group of Russian researchers in 2008 this time on a study conducted in elite athletes. Those with the CC and CG genotype had higher VO2max values than those with the GG genotype, again indicating that the C allele is associated with greater improvements as a response to aerobic training.

 

In summary, then, we can see that the C allele of VEGF is associated with greater improvements in aerobic capacity following training. It also has a role to play in response to power and endurance exercise, with C allele carriers showing a better response to endurance training than GG genotypes. The table below summaries the key effects of the different VEGF genotypes.

 

VEGF Genotype

Effect

CC

Produce the greatest amount of VEGF following exercise, which leads to good muscle efficiency and improvements in VO2max. Likely to respond well to aerobic training and endurance training.

GC

Moderate form on CC – respond well to aerobic and endurance training, but not quite as much as CC.

GG

Have smallest release of VEGF following training, and as such see smallest improvements in both aerobic capacity and improvements from endurance training.

 

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