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Title: Metabolic reprogramming underlies cavefish muscular endurance despite loss of muscle mass and contractility

Physical inactivity is a scourge to human health, promoting metabolic disease and muscle wasting. Interestingly, multiple ecological niches have relaxed investment into physical activity, providing an evolutionary perspective into the effect of adaptive physical inactivity on tissue homeostasis. One such example, the Mexican cavefishAstyanax mexicanus,has lost moderate-to-vigorous activity following cave colonization, reaching basal swim speeds ~3.7-fold slower than their river-dwelling counterpart. This change in behavior is accompanied by a marked shift in body composition, decreasing total muscle mass and increasing fat mass. This shift persisted at the single muscle fiber level via increased lipid and sugar accumulation at the expense of myofibrillar volume. Transcriptomic analysis of laboratory-reared and wild-caught cavefish indicated that this shift is driven by increased expression ofpparγ—the master regulator of adipogenesis—with a simultaneous decrease in fast myosin heavy chain expression. Ex vivo and in vivo analysis confirmed that these investment strategies come with a functional trade-off, decreasing cavefish muscle fiber shortening velocity, time to maximal force, and ultimately maximal swimming speed. Despite this, cavefish displayed a striking degree of muscular endurance, reaching maximal swim speeds ~3.5-fold faster than their basal swim speeds. Multi-omic analysis suggested metabolic reprogramming, specifically phosphorylation of Pgm1-Threonine 19, as a key component enhancing cavefish glycogen metabolism and sustained muscle contraction. Collectively, we reveal broad skeletal muscle changes following cave colonization, displaying an adaptive skeletal muscle phenotype reminiscent to mammalian disuse and high-fat models while simultaneously maintaining a unique capacity for sustained muscle contraction via enhanced glycogen metabolism.

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Award ID(s):
1933076 2202359
Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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