Testosterone supplementation increases muscle mass in older men but has not been shown to consistently improve physical function and activity. It has been hypothesized that physical exercise is required to induce the adaptations necessary for translation of testosterone-induced muscle mass gain into functional improvements. However, the effects of testosterone plus low intensity physical exercise training (T/PT) on functional performance and bioenergetics are unknown. In this pilot study, we tested the hypothesis that combined administration of T/PT would improve functional performance and bioenergetics in male mice late in life more than low-intensity physical training alone. 28-month old male mice were randomized to receive T/PT or vehicle plus physical training (V/PT) for 2 months. Compare to V/PT control, administration of T/PT was associated with improvements in muscle mass, grip strength, spontaneous physical movements, and respiratory activity. These changes were correlated with increased mitochondrial DNA copy number and expression of markers for mitochondrial biogenesis. Mice receiving T/PT also displayed increased expression of key elements for mitochondrial quality control, including markers for mitochondrial fission-and-fusion and mitophagy. Concurrently, mice receiving T/PT also displayed increased expression of markers for reduced tissue oxidative damage and improved muscle quality. Conclusion: Testosterone administered with low-intensity physical training improves grip strength, spontaneous movements, and respiratory activity. These functional improvements were associated with increased muscle mitochondrial biogenesis and improved mitochondrial quality control.
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