Transcriptomic adaptation during skeletal muscle habituation to eccentric or concentric exercise training

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Eccentric (ECC) and concentric (CON) contractions induce distinct muscle remodelling patterns that manifest early during exercise training, the causes of which remain unclear. We examined molecular signatures of early contraction mode-specific muscle adaptation via transcriptome-wide network and secretome analyses during 2 weeks of ECC- versus CON-specific (downhill versus uphill running) exercise training (exercise ‘habituation’). Despite habituation attenuating total numbers of exercise-induced genes, functional gene-level profiles of untrained ECC or CON were largely unaltered post-habituation. Network analysis revealed 11 ECC-specific modules, including upregulated extracellular matrix and immune profiles plus downregulated mitochondrial pathways following untrained ECC. Of 3 CON-unique modules, 2 were ribosome-related and downregulated post-habituation. Across training, 376 ECC-specific and 110 CON-specific hub genes were identified, plus 45 predicted transcription factors. Secreted factors were enriched in 3 ECC- and/or CON-responsive modules, with all 3 also being under the predicted transcriptional control of SP1 and KLF4. Of 34 candidate myokine hubs, 1 was also predicted to have elevated expression in skeletal muscle versus other tissues: THBS4, of a secretome-enriched module upregulated after untrained ECC. In conclusion, distinct untrained ECC and CON transcriptional responses are dampened after habituation without substantially shifting molecular functional profiles, providing new mechanistic candidates into contraction-mode specific muscle regulation.