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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Mar;294(3):E607-14. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00729.2007. Epub 2008 Jan 8.

Insulin-resistant muscle is exercise resistant: evidence for reduced response of nuclear-encoded mitochondrial genes to exercise.

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  • 1Center for Metabolic Biology, Arizona State University, P. O. Box 873704 Tempe, AZ 85287-3704, USA.


Mitochondrial dysfunction, associated with insulin resistance, is characterized by low expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator-1alpha (PGC-1alpha) and nuclear-encoded mitochondrial genes. This deficit could be due to decreased physical activity or a decreased response of gene expression to exercise. The objective of this study was to investigate whether a bout of exercise induces the same increase in nuclear-encoded mitochondrial gene expression in insulin-sensitive and insulin-resistant subjects matched for exercise capacity. Seven lean and nine obese subjects took part. Insulin sensitivity was assessed by an 80 mU.m(-2).min(-1) euglycemic clamp. Subjects were matched for aerobic capacity and underwent a single bout of exercise at 70 and 90% of maximum heart rate with muscle biopsies at 30 and 300 min postexercise. Quantitative RT-PCR and immunoblot analyses were used to determine the effect of exercise on gene expression and protein abundance and phosphorylation. In the postexercise period, lean subjects immediately increased PGC-1alpha mRNA level (reaching an eightfold increase by 300 min postexercise) and protein abundance and AMP-dependent protein kinase phosphorylation. Activation of PGC-1alpha was followed by increase of nuclear respiratory factor-1 and cytochrome c oxidase (subunit VIc). However, in insulin-resistant subjects, there was a delayed and reduced response in PGC-1alpha mRNA and protein, and phosphorylation of AMP-dependent protein kinase was transient. None of the genes downstream of PGC-1alpha was increased after exercise in insulin resistance. Insulin-resistant subjects have a reduced response of nuclear-encoded mitochondrial genes to exercise, and this could contribute to the origin and maintenance of mitochondrial dysfunction.

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