Skeletal muscle and nuclear hormone receptors: implications for cardiovascular and metabolic disease

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2005 Oct;37(10):2047-63. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2005.03.002.


Skeletal muscle is a major mass peripheral tissue that accounts for approximately 40% of the total body mass and a major player in energy balance. It accounts for >30% of energy expenditure, is the primary tissue of insulin stimulated glucose uptake, disposal, and storage. Furthermore, it influences metabolism via modulation of circulating and stored lipid (and cholesterol) flux. Lipid catabolism supplies up to 70% of the energy requirements for resting muscle. However, initial aerobic exercise utilizes stored muscle glycogen but as exercise continues, glucose and stored muscle triglycerides become important energy substrates. Endurance exercise increasingly depends on fatty acid oxidation (and lipid mobilization from other tissues). This underscores the importance of lipid and glucose utilization as an energy source in muscle. Consequently skeletal muscle has a significant role in insulin sensitivity, the blood lipid profile, and obesity. Moreover, caloric excess, obesity and physical inactivity lead to skeletal muscle insulin resistance, a risk factor for the development of type II diabetes. In this context skeletal muscle is an important therapeutic target in the battle against cardiovascular disease, the worlds most serious public health threat. Major risk factors for cardiovascular disease include dyslipidemia, hypertension, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and diabetes. These risk factors are directly influenced by diet, metabolism and physical activity. Metabolism is largely regulated by nuclear hormone receptors which function as hormone regulated transcription factors that bind DNA and mediate the patho-physiological regulation of gene expression. Metabolism and activity, which directly influence cardiovascular disease risk factors, are primarily driven by skeletal muscle. Recently, many nuclear receptors expressed in skeletal muscle have been shown to improve glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, and dyslipidemia. Skeletal muscle and nuclear receptors are rapidly emerging as critical targets in the battle against cardiovascular disease risk factors. Understanding the function of nuclear receptors in skeletal muscle has enormous pharmacological utility for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. This review focuses on the molecular regulation of metabolism by nuclear receptors in skeletal muscle in the context of dyslipidemia and cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism*
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Dyslipidemias / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 1
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / metabolism
  • Receptors, Steroid / metabolism
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Tretinoin / metabolism


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • NR4A1 protein, human
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 1
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tretinoin
  • Cholesterol
  • Glucose