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Korean J Physiol Pharmacol 2017; 21(6): 567-577

Published online November 1, 2017 https://doi.org/10.4196/kjpp.2017.21.6.567

Copyright © The Korean Journal of Physiology & Pharmacology.

Effects of exercise on obesity-induced mitochondrial dysfunction in skeletal muscle

Jun-Won Heo1, Mi-Hyun No1, Dong-Ho Park1, Ju-Hee Kang2, Dae Yun Seo3, Jin Han3, P. Darrell Neufer4, and Hyo-Bum Kwak1,*

1Department of Kinesiology, Inha University, Incheon 22212, 2Department of Pharmacology and Medicinal Toxicology Research Center, Inha University School of Medicine, Incheon 22212, 3National Research Laboratory for Mitochondrial Signaling, Department of Physiology, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, BK21 Project Team, College of Medicine, Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease Center, Inje University, Busan 47392, Korea, 4Department of Physiology, East Carolina Diabetes and Obesity Institute, East Carolina University, Greenville 27834, USA

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Obesity is known to induce inhibition of glucose uptake, reduction of lipid metabolism, and progressive loss of skeletal muscle function, which are all associated with mitochondrial dysfunction in skeletal muscle. Mitochondria are dynamic organelles that regulate cellular metabolism and bioenergetics, including ATP production via oxidative phosphorylation. Due to these critical roles of mitochondria, mitochondrial dysfunction results in various diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Obesity is associated with impairment of mitochondrial function (e.g., decrease in O2 respiration and increase in oxidative stress) in skeletal muscle. The balance between mitochondrial fusion and fission is critical to maintain mitochondrial homeostasis in skeletal muscle. Obesity impairs mitochondrial dynamics, leading to an unbalance between fusion and fission by favorably shifting fission or reducing fusion proteins. Mitophagy is the catabolic process of damaged or unnecessary mitochondria.Obesity reduces mitochondrial biogenesis in skeletal muscle and increases accumulation of dysfunctional cellular organelles, suggesting that mitophagy does not work properly in obesity. Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress are reported to trigger apoptosis, and mitochondrial apoptosis is induced by obesity in skeletal muscle. It is well known that exercise is the most effective intervention to protect against obesity. Although the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which exercise protects against obesity-induced mitochondrial dysfunction in skeletal muscle are not clearly elucidated, exercise training attenuates mitochondrial dysfunction, allows mitochondria to maintain the balance between mitochondrial dynamics and mitophagy, and reduces apoptotic signaling in obese skeletal muscle.

Keywords: Exercise, Mitochondria, Obesity, Skeletal Muscle