Background: Maintaining skeletal muscle mitochondrial content and function is important for sustained health throughout the lifespan. Exercise stimulates important key stress signals that control skeletal mitochondrial biogenesis and function. Perturbations in mitochondrial content and function can directly or indirectly impact skeletal muscle function and consequently whole-body health and wellbeing.
Scope of review: This review will describe the exercise-stimulated stress signals and molecular mechanisms positively regulating mitochondrial biogenesis and function. It will then discuss the major myopathies, neuromuscular diseases and conditions such as diabetes and ageing that have dysregulated mitochondrial function. Finally, the impact of exercise and potential pharmacological approaches to improve mitochondrial function in diseased populations will be discussed.
Major conclusions: Exercise activates key stress signals that positively impact major transcriptional pathways that transcribe genes involved in skeletal muscle mitochondrial biogenesis, fusion and metabolism. The positive impact of exercise is not limited to younger healthy adults but also benefits skeletal muscle from diseased populations and the elderly. Impaired mitochondrial function can directly influence skeletal muscle atrophy and contribute to the risk or severity of disease conditions. Pharmacological manipulation of exercise-induced pathways that increase skeletal muscle mitochondrial biogenesis and function in critically ill patients, where exercise may not be possible, may assist in the treatment of chronic disease.
General significance: This review highlights our understanding of how exercise positively impacts skeletal muscle mitochondrial biogenesis and function. Exercise not only improves skeletal muscle mitochondrial health but also enables us to identify molecular mechanisms that may be attractive targets for therapeutic manipulation. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Frontiers of mitochondrial research.
Keywords: Exercise; Mitochondrial biogenesis; Neuromuscular disease; PGC-1; Skeletal muscle.
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