Muscle Fn14 gene expression is associated with fat-free mass retention during energy deficit at high altitude

Document Type


Publication Date



Health Sciences

Publication Title

Physiological Reports


Intramuscular factors that modulate fat-free mass (FFM) loss in lowlanders exposed to energy deficit during high-altitude (HA) sojourns remain unclear. Muscle inflammation may contribute to FFM loss at HA by inducing atrophy and inhibiting myogenesis via the tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-like weak inducer of apoptosis (TWEAK) and its receptor, fibroblast growth factor-inducible protein 14 (Fn14). To explore whether muscle inflammation modulates FFM loss reportedly developing during HA sojourns, muscle inflammation, myogenesis, and proteolysis were assessed in 16 men at sea level (SL) and following 21 days of energy deficit (−1862 ± 525 kcal/days) at high altitude (HA, 4300 m). Total body mass (TBM), FFM, and fat mass (FM) were assessed using DEXA. Gene expression and proteolytic enzymatic activities were assessed in muscle samples collected at rest at SL and HA. Participants lost 7.2 ± 1.8 kg TBM (P < 0.05); 43 ± 30% and 57 ± 30% of the TBM lost was FFM and FM, respectively. Fn14, TWEAK, TNF alpha-receptor (TNFα-R), TNFα, MYOGENIN, and paired box protein-7 (PAX7) were upregulated (P < 0.05) at HA compared to SL. Stepwise linear regression identified that Fn14 explained the highest percentage of variance in FFM loss (r2 = 0.511, P < 0.05). Dichotomization of volunteers into HIGH and LOW Fn14 gene expression indicated HIGH lost less FFM and more FM (28 ± 28% and 72 ± 28%, respectively) as a proportion of TBM loss than LOW (58 ± 26% and 42 ± 26%; P < 0.05) at HA. MYOGENIN gene expression was also greater for HIGH versus LOW (P < 0.05). These data suggest that heightened Fn14 gene expression is not catabolic and may protect FFM during HA sojourns.

Link to Published Version