Low intrinsic running capacity is associated with reduced skeletal muscle substrate oxidation and lower mitochondrial content in white skeletal muscle
Chronic metabolic diseases develop from the complex interaction of environmental and genetic factors, although the extent to which each contributes to these disorders is unknown. Here, we test the hypothesis that artificial selection for low intrinsic aerobic running capacity is associated with reduced skeletal muscle metabolism and impaired metabolic health. Rat models for low- (LCR) and high- (HCR) intrinsic running capacity were derived from genetically heterogeneous N:NIH stock for 20 generations. Artificial selection produced a 530% difference in running capacity between LCR/HCR, which was associated with significant functional differences in glucose and lipid handling by skeletal muscle, as assessed by hindlimb perfusion. LCR had reduced rates of skeletal muscle glucose uptake (∼30%; P = 0.04), glucose oxidation (∼50%; P = 0.04), and lipid oxidation (∼40%; P = 0.02). Artificial selection for low aerobic capacity was also linked with reduced molecular signaling, decreased muscle glycogen, and triglyceride storage, and a lower mitochondrial content in skeletal muscle, with the most profound changes to these parameters evident in white rather than red muscle. We show that a low intrinsic aerobic running capacity confers reduced insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle and is associated with impaired markers of metabolic health compared with high intrinsic running capacity. Furthermore, selection for high running capacity, in the absence of exercise training, endows increased skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity and oxidative capacity in specifically white muscle rather than red muscle. These data provide evidence that differences in white muscle may have a role in the divergent aerobic capacity observed in this generation of LCR/HCR.