A single day of bed rest, irrespective of energy balance, does not affect skeletal muscle gene expression or insulin sensitivity

Marlou L. Dirks, Francis B. Stephens, Sarah R. Jackman, Jesus Galera Gordo, David J. Machin, Richard M. Pulsford, Luc J. C. van Loon, Benjamin T. Wall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The initial metabolic and molecular events that underpin disuse-induced skeletal muscle deconditioning, and the contribution of energy balance, remain to be investigated. Ten young, healthy men (age 25 +/- 1years; body mass index 25.3 +/- 0.8kgm(-2)) underwent three 24h laboratory-based experimental periods in a randomized, crossover manner: (i) controlled habitual physical activity with an energy-balanced diet (CON); (ii) strict bed rest with a diet to maintain energy balance (BR-B); and (iii) strict bed rest with a diet identical to CON, consequently resulting in positive energy balance. Continuous glucose monitoring was performed throughout each visit, with vastus lateralis muscle biopsies and an oral glucose tolerance test performed before and after. In parallel with muscle samples collected from a previous 7day bed rest study, biopsies were used to examine the expression of genes associated with the regulation of muscle mass and insulin sensitivity. A single day of bed rest, irrespective of energy balance, did not lead to overt changes in whole-body substrate oxidation, indices of insulin sensitivity [i.e. homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance, BR-B from 2.7 +/- 1.7 to 3.1 +/- 1.5 (P>0.05) and Matsuda index, BR-B from 5.9 +/- 3.3 to 5.2 +/- 2.9 (P>0.05)] or 24h glycaemic control/variability compared with CON. Seven days of bed rest led to approximate to 30-55% lower expression of genes involved in insulin signalling, lipid storage/oxidation and muscle protein breakdown, whereas no such changes were observed after 1day of bed rest. In conclusion, more than a single day of physical inactivity is required to observe the insulin resistance and robust skeletal muscle transcriptional responses associated with bed rest and consequent alterations in energy balance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)860-875
Number of pages16
JournalExperimental Physiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • disuse
  • glucose tolerance
  • insulin resistance
  • nutrition
  • transcriptional response

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