Coordination of metabolic plasticity in skeletal muscle
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Skeletal muscle is a highly malleable tissue, capable of pronounced metabolic and morphological adaptations in response to contractile activity (i.e. exercise). Each bout of contractile activity results in a coordinated alteration in the expression of a variety of nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) gene products, leading to phenotypic adaptations. This results in an increase in muscle mitochondrial volume and changes in organelle composition, referred to as mitochondrial biogenesis. The functional consequence of this biogenesis is an improved resistance to fatigue. Signals initiated by the exercise bout involve changes in intracellular Ca2+ as well as alterations in energy status (i.e. ATP/ADP ratio) and the consequent activation of downstream kinases such as AMP kinase and Ca2+-calmodulin-activated kinases. These kinases activate transcription factors that bind DNA to affect the transcription of genes, the most evident manifestation of which occurs during the post-exercise recovery period when energy metabolism is directed toward anabolism, rather than contractile activity. An important protein that is affected by exercise is the transcriptional coactivator PGC-1alpha, which cooperates with multiple transcription factors to induce the expression of nuclear genes encoding mitochondrial proteins. Once translated in the cytosol, these mitochondrially destined proteins are imported into the mitochondrial outer membrane, inner membrane or matrix space via specific import machinery transport components. Contractile activity affects the expression of the import machinery, as well as the kinetics of import, thus facilitating the entry of newly synthesized proteins into the expanding organelle. An important set of proteins that are imported are the mtDNA transcription factors, which influence the expression and replication of mtDNA. While mtDNA contributes only 13 proteins to the synthesis of the organelle, these proteins are vital for the proper assembly of multi-subunit complexes of the respiratory chain, when combined with nuclear-encoded protein subunits. The expansion of skeletal muscle mitochondria during organelle biogenesis involves the assembly of an interconnected network system (i.e. a mitochondrial reticulum). This expansion of membrane size is influenced by the balance between mitochondrial fusion and fission. Thus, mitochondrial biogenesis is an adaptive process that requires the coordination of multiple cellular events, including the transcription of two genomes, the synthesis of lipids and proteins and the stoichiometric assembly of multisubunit protein complexes into a functional respiratory chain. Impairments at any step can lead to defective electron transport, a subsequent failure of ATP production and an inability to maintain energy homeostasis.
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