The effects of training, acute exercise and dietary fatty acid composition on muscle lipid oxidative capacity in European starlings

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Migratory birds undergo seasonal changes to muscle biochemistry. Nonetheless, it is unclear to what extent these changes are attributable to the exercise of flight itself versus endogenous changes. Using starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) flying in a wind tunnel, we tested the effects of exercise training, a single bout of flight and dietary lipid composition on pectoralis muscle oxidative enzymes and lipid transporters. Starlings were either unexercised or trained over 2 weeks to fly in a wind tunnel and sampled either immediately following a long flight at the end of this training or after 2 days recovery from this flight. Additionally, they were divided into dietary groups that differed in dietary fatty acid composition (high polyunsaturates versus high monounsaturates) and amount of dietary antioxidant. Trained starlings had elevated (19%) carnitine palmitoyl transferase and elevated (11%) hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase in pectoralis muscle compared with unexercised controls, but training alone had little effect on lipid transporters. Immediately following a long wind-tunnel flight, starling pectoralis had upregulated lipid transporter mRNA (heart-type fatty acid binding protein, H-FABP, 4.7-fold; fatty acid translocase, 1.9-fold; plasma membrane fatty acid binding protein, 1.6-fold), and upregulated H-FABP protein (68%). Dietary fatty acid composition and the amount of dietary antioxidants had no effect on muscle catabolic enzymes or lipid transporter expression. Our results demonstrate that birds undergo rapid upregulation of catabolic capacity that largely becomes available during flight itself, with minor effects due to training. These effects likely combine with endogenous seasonal changes to create the migratory phenotype observed in the wild.

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Journal of Experimental Biology