Lipid metabolism in skeletal muscle: generation of adaptive and maladaptive intracellular signals for cellular function

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Jun 1;302(11):E1315-28. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00561.2011. Epub 2011 Dec 20.


Fatty acids derived from adipose tissue lipolysis, intramyocellular triacylglycerol lipolysis, or de novo lipogenesis serve a variety of functions in skeletal muscle. The two major fates of fatty acids are mitochondrial oxidation to provide energy for the myocyte and storage within a variety of lipids, where they are stored primarily in discrete lipid droplets or serve as important structural components of membranes. In this review, we provide a brief overview of skeletal muscle fatty acid metabolism and highlight recent notable advances in the field. We then 1) discuss how lipids are stored in and mobilized from various subcellular locations to provide adaptive or maladaptive signals in the myocyte and 2) outline how lipid metabolites or metabolic byproducts derived from the actions of triacylglycerol metabolism or β-oxidation act as positive and negative regulators of insulin action. We have placed an emphasis on recent developments in the lipid biology field with respect to understanding skeletal muscle physiology and discuss unanswered questions and technical limitations for assessing lipid signaling in skeletal muscle.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology*
  • Lipids / physiology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipids
  • Triglycerides