What’s the deal with Myostatin?


February 7, 2014

As you may be aware, at FitnessGenes™ we constantly update our research and add new genes that we feel will add value to the information we provide. So let’s look at one of the new genes we analyse. As you may have seen from our previous blog, myostatin is a very important protein when it comes to muscle growth.

What is myostatin?

Myostatin is a member of a family of secreted proteins, called the transforming growth factor β or TGF β superfamily. These proteins control cell proliferation (the process of generating more cells) and cell differentiation (the process of changing from an ‘immature’ cell, or precursor stem cell, into a specialised cell, like skeletal muscle). Myostatin has been shown to be involved in the control of muscle proliferation and differentiation.

In what way does myostatin control muscle growth and differentiation?

Myostatin protein is expressed predominantly in skeletal muscle, and negatively regulates (‘keeps at bay’) muscle growth. It does this by controlling muscle specific gene expression patterns, and by limiting the activity of an enzyme called AKT1. AKT1 is an indirect target of insulin growth factor 1 (IFG-1) and is involved in the PI3K and mTOR signalling that controls nutrient sensing, protein synthesis, and muscle hypertrophy.

Just to let you know, variations in AKT1 and its pathway partners have been added to our FitnessGenes™ portfolio, and will be the subject of another blog!

So do different people have different myostatin levels? Yes, and there are some interesting mutations that have been discovered that affect myostatin. One example, which is more common, has been shown to have modest but measurable effects on some aspects of strength and longevity. Another mutation, however, is quite compelling. It is a rare mutation first discovered in one particular family back in 2004. The mutation appears to completely knock out myostatin production. The loss of myostatin leads to a significant increase in muscle hypertrophy (remember myostatin negatively regulates muscle growth).

As a side note, we have checked all the FitnessGenes™ team members for this mutation, but alas, none of us have it—I caught Mark and Dan crying and mumbling ‘it’s not fair’ under their breath earlier today after what they already suspected was confirmed!

So can I find out if I have these mutations? Yes, these two myostatin gene variants have been added to the FitnessGenes™ portfolio. And don’t worry, for those customers who have already bought an MG ‘Future Genes’ package, you will be getting your genetic information for myostatin—and others—as we roll out the FitnessGenes™ membership website for you all!

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