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MRI characterization of skeletal muscle size and fatty infiltration in long-term trained and untrained individuals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Eric B. Emanuelsson, David B. Berry, Stefan M. Reitzner, Muhammad Arif, Adil Mardinoglu, Thomas Gustafsson, Samuel R. Ward, Carl Johan Sundberg, Mark A. Chapman

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e15398
JournalPhysiological Reports
Issue number14
Published1 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright: © 2022 The Authors. Physiological Reports published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of The Physiological Society and the American Physiological Society.

King's Authors


This study investigated body composition measures in highly trained and untrained individuals using whole-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Additionally, correlations between these measures and skeletal muscle gene expression were performed. Thirty-six individuals were included: endurance-trained males (ME, n = 8) and females (FE, n = 7), strength-trained males (MS, n = 7), and untrained control males (MC, n = 8) and females (FC, n = 6). MRI scans were performed, and resting M. vastus lateralis (VL) biopsies were subjected to RNA sequencing. Liver fat fraction, visceral adipose tissue volume (VAT), total body fat, and total lean tissue were measured from MRI data. Additionally, cross-sectional area (CSA) and fat signal fraction (FSF) were calculated from Mm. pectoralis, M. erector spinae and M. multifidus combined, Mm. quadriceps, and Mm. triceps surae (TS). Liver fat fraction, VAT, and total body fat relative to body weight were lower in ME and FE compared with corresponding controls. MS had a larger CSA across all four muscle groups and lower FSF in all muscles apart from TS compared with MC. ME had a lower FSF across all muscle groups and a larger CSA in all muscles except TS than MC. FE athletes showed a higher CSA in Mm. pectoralis and Mm. quadriceps and a lower CSA in TS than FC with no CSA differences found in the back muscles investigated. Surprisingly, the only difference in FSF between FE and FC was found in Mm. pectoralis. Lastly, correlations between VL gene expression and VL CSA as well as FSF showed that genes positively correlated with CSA revealed an enrichment of the oxidative phosphorylation and thermogenesis pathways, while the genes positively correlated with FSF showed significant enrichment of the spliceosome pathway. Although limited differences were found with training in females, our study suggests that both regular endurance and resistance training are useful in maintaining muscle mass, reducing adipose tissue deposits, and reducing muscle fat content in males.

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