Mechanisms of exercise-induced mitochondrial biogenesis in skeletal muscle

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009 Jun;34(3):465-72. doi: 10.1139/H09-045.


Acute exercise initiates rapid cellular signals, leading to the subsequent activation of proteins that increase gene transcription. The result is a higher level of mRNA expression, often observed during the recovery period following exercise. These molecules are translated into precursor proteins for import into preexisting mitochondria. Once inside the organelle, the protein is processed to its mature form and either activates mitochondrial DNA gene expression, serves as a single subunit enzyme, or is incorporated into multi-subunit complexes of the respiratory chain devoted to electron transport and substrate oxidation. The result of this exercise-induced sequence of events is the expansion of the mitochondrial network within muscle cells and the capacity for aerobic ATP provision. An understanding of the molecular processes involved in this complex pathway of organelle synthesis is important for therapeutic purposes, and is a primary research undertaking in laboratories involved in the study of mitochondrial biogenesis. This pathway in muscle becomes impaired with chronic inactivity and aging, which leads to a reduced muscle aerobic capacity and an increased tendency for mitochondrially mediated apoptosis, a situation that can contribute to muscle atrophy. The resumption, or adoption, of an active lifestyle can ameliorate this metabolic dysfunction, improve endurance, and help maintain muscle mass.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Muscle Proteins