Difference in skeletal muscle function in males vs. females: Role of estrogen receptor-β

Birgitta Glenmark, Maria Nilsson, Hui Gao, Jan Åke Gustafsson, Karin Dahlman-Wright, Håkan Westerblad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Male skeletal muscles are generally faster and have higher maximum power output than female muscles. Conversely, during repeated contractions, female muscles are generally more fatigue resistant and recover faster. We studied the role of estrogen receptor-β (ERβ) in this gender difference by comparing contractile function of soleus (mainly slow-twitch) and extensor digitorum longus (fast-twitch) muscles isolated from ERβ-deficient (ERβ -/-) and wild-type mice of both sexes. Results showed generally shorter contraction and relaxation times in male compared with female muscles, and ERβ deficiency had no effect on this. Fatigue (induced by repeated tetanic contractions) and recovery of female muscles were not affected by ERβ deficiency. However, male ERβ -/- muscles were slightly more fatigue resistant and produced higher forces during the recovery period than wild-type male muscles. In fact, female muscles and male ERβ -/- muscles displayed markedly better recovery than male wildtype muscles. Gene screening of male soleus muscles showed 25 genes that were differently expressed in ERβ -/- and wild-type mice. Five of these genes were selected for further analysis: muscle ankyrin repeat protein-2, muscle LIM protein, calsequestrin, parvalbumin, and aquaporin-1. Expression of these genes showed a similar general pattern: increased expression in male and decreased expression in female ERβ -/- muscles. In conclusion, ERβ deficiency results in increased performance during fatigue and recovery of male muscles, whereas female muscles are not affected. Improved contractile performance of male ERβ -/- mouse muscles was associated with increased expression of mRNAs encoding important muscle proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1125-E1131
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6 50-6
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Gender differences
  • Muscle ankyrin repeat protein
  • Muscle LIM protein
  • Skeletal muscle fatigue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrinology
  • Biochemistry


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