Apoptosis and antioxidant status are influenced by age and exercise training in horses

C. A. Williams, M. E. Gordon, C. L. Betros, K. H. McKeever

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28 Scopus citations


Eight mature (12 ± 2 yr; MAT) and 5 older (22 ±2 yr; OLD) Standardbred mares were used to test the hypothesis that aging and exercise training would alter apoptosis in white blood cells and antioxidant status. The horses were housed indoors overnight (16 h/d) in 3 m × 3 m stalls and were turned out in a drylot during the day. They were fed a diet consisting of total mixed ration, hay cubes fed ad libitum or an equine senior diet plus grass hay. Horses were trained for 20 to 30 min/d, 3 to 5 d/wk for 8 wk at a submaximal work intensity between 60 to 70% of maximal heart rate. A graded exercise test (GXT; stepwise test until exhaustion) was performed before (GXT1) and after (GXT2) the 8 wk of training. During the GXT, blood samples and heart rate were taken at rest, 6 m/s, fatigue, and at 5 and 60 min postfatigue. Fatigue plasma lactate concentration was greater in MAT (19.3 ± 1.5 at 10 m/s) compared with the OLD (10.9 ± 1.2 mmol/L at 9 m/s; P = 0.008) horses. There was no effect of age or training on plasma lipid hydroperoxide (LPO) concentration. However, there was a positive correlation between LPO and plasma lactate concentration (r = 0.27, P = 0.006) during acute exercise. There was a greater concentration of total glutathione after GXT1 than after GXT2 (111.8 ± 5.0 vs. 98.6 ± 3.4 μM, respectively; P = 0.0002) for both age groups. Apoptosis was less (P = 0.002) in white blood cells of the MAT vs. the OLD group. These results demonstrate that older horses are under similar amounts of oxidative stress, measured by LPO, and have similar levels of glutathione in their systems compared with mature horses. The observation that more glutathione was needed during GXT1 for both groups of horses indicates that training helps horses adapt their system for the intense posttraining exercise tests. The greater level of white blood cell apoptosis also indicates that older horses may be immune-compromised during exercise. However, research still needs to be performed regarding dietary supplementation in the aged horse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)576-583
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


  • Aging
  • Antioxidant
  • Apoptosis
  • Equine
  • Exercise training
  • Glutathione


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