Background: The molecular mechanisms underlying the sex differences in human muscle morphology and function remain to be elucidated. The sex differences in the skeletal muscle transcriptome in both the resting state and following anabolic stimuli, such as resistance exercise (RE), might provide insight to the contributors of sexual dimorphism of muscle phenotypes. We used microarrays to profile the transcriptome of the biceps brachii of young men and women who underwent an acute unilateral RE session following 12 weeks of progressive training. Bilateral muscle biopsies were obtained either at an early (4 h post-exercise) or late recovery (24 h post-exercise) time point. Muscle transcription profiles were compared in the resting state between men (n = 6) and women (n = 8), and in response to acute RE in trained exercised vs. untrained non-exercised control muscle for each sex and time point separately (4 h post-exercise, n = 3 males, n = 4 females; 24 h post-exercise, n = 3 males, n = 4 females). A logistic regression-based method (LRpath), following Bayesian moderated t-statistic (IMBT), was used to test gene functional groups and biological pathways enriched with differentially expressed genes.Results: This investigation identified extensive sex differences present in the muscle transcriptome at baseline and following acute RE. In the resting state, female muscle had a greater transcript abundance of genes involved in fatty acid oxidation and gene transcription/translation processes. After strenuous RE at the same relative intensity, the time course of the transcriptional modulation was sex-dependent. Males experienced prolonged changes while females exhibited a rapid restoration. Most of the biological processes involved in the RE-induced transcriptional regulation were observed in both males and females, but sex specificity was suggested for several signaling pathways including activation of notch signaling and TGF-beta signaling in females. Sex differences in skeletal muscle transcriptional regulation might implicate a mechanism behind disproportional muscle growth in males as compared with female counterparts after RE training at the same relative intensity.Conclusions: Sex differences exist in skeletal muscle gene transcription both at rest and following acute RE, suggesting that sex is a significant modifier of the transcriptional regulation in skeletal muscle. The findings from the present study provide insight into the molecular mechanisms for sex differences in muscle phenotypes and for muscle transcriptional regulation associated with training adaptations to resistance exercise.
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