High activity before breeding improves reproductive performance by enhancing mitochondrial function and biogenesis
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Understanding of physiological responses of organisms is typically based on data collected during an isolated event. Although many fundamental insights have been gained from these studies, evaluating the response to a single event ignores the fact that each individual has experienced a unique set of events throughout its life that may have altered its physiology. The idea that prior experiences can influence subsequent performance is known as a carry-over effect. Carry-over effects may explain much of the variation in performance found among individuals. For example, high physical activity has been shown to improve mitochondrial respiratory function and biogenesis and reduce oxidative stress, and has been linked to improved health and longevity. In this study, we asked whether the bioenergetic differences between active and inactive individuals carry over to impact performance in a subsequent reproductive event and alter a female's reproductive outcome. Female mice that had access to a running wheel for a month before mating gave birth to a larger litter and weaned a heavier litter, indicating that high physical activity had a positive carry-over effect to reproduction. Mice that ran also displayed higher mitochondrial respiration and biogenesis with no changes in endogenous antioxidant enzymes. These results provide a mechanistic framework for how the conditions that animals experience before breeding can impact reproductive outcomes.