Primary mitochondrial diseases (PMDs) are a heterogeneous group of metabolic disorders that can be caused by hundreds of mutations in both mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and nuclear DNA (nDNA) genes. Current therapeutic approaches are limited, although one approach has been exercise training. Endurance exercise is known to improve mitochondrial function in heathy subjects and reduce risk for secondary metabolic disorders such as diabetes or neurodegenerative disorders. However, in PMDs the benefit of endurance exercise is unclear, and exercise might be beneficial for some mitochondrial disorders but contraindicated in others. Here we investigate the effect of an endurance exercise regimen in mouse models for PMDs harboring distinct mitochondrial mutations. We show that while an mtDNA ND6 mutation in complex I demonstrated improvement in response to exercise, mice with a CO1 mutation affecting complex IV showed significantly fewer positive effects, and mice with an ND5 complex I mutation did not respond to exercise at all. For mice deficient in the nDNA adenine nucleotide translocase 1 (Ant1), endurance exercise actually worsened the dilated cardiomyopathy. Correlating the gene expression profile of skeletal muscle and heart with the physiologic exercise response identified oxidative phosphorylation, amino acid metabolism, matrisome (extracellular matrix [ECM]) structure, and cell cycle regulation as key pathways in the exercise response. This emphasizes the crucial role of mitochondria in determining the exercise capacity and exercise response. Consequently, the benefit of endurance exercise in PMDs strongly depends on the underlying mutation, although our results suggest a general beneficial effect.
Keywords: endurance exercise; mitochondrial disease; skeletal muscle adaption.