Acute contractile activity of skeletal muscle initiates the activation of signaling kinases. This promotes the phosphorylation of transcription factors, leading to enhanced DNA binding and transcriptional activation and/or repression. The mRNA products of nuclear genes encoding mitochondrial proteins are translated in the cytosol and imported into pre-existing mitochondria. When contractile activity is repeated, the recapitulation of these cellular events progressively leads to an expansion of the mitochondrial reticulum within muscle. This has physiologically relevant health benefit, including enhanced lipid metabolism and reduced muscle fatigability. In aging skeletal muscle, the response to contractile activity appears to be attenuated, suggesting that a greater contractile stimulus is required to attain a similar phenotype adaptation. This review summarizes our current understanding of the effects of exercise on the gene expression pathway leading to organelle biogenesis in muscle.
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