Implications of exercise training in mtDNA defects - Use it or lose it?

Tanja Taivassalo, Ronald G. Haller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Whether regular exercise is beneficial or should be avoided is a question currently unsettled in patients with heteroplasmic mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) disorders of skeletal muscle. Deleterious effects of habitual physical inactivity superimposed upon impaired mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation may contribute to varying degrees of exercise intolerance in these patients. Endurance exercise training is widely known to improve exercise capacity in healthy subjects and various chronic-disease patient populations. Although we have shown that beneficial physiological and biochemical responses to training increase exercise tolerance in patients with mtDNA defects, knowledge of the muscle adaptive response to endurance training within the setting of mitochondrial heteroplasmy remains limited. In order to determine advisability of endurance training as therapy, it remains to be established whether potential endurance training-induced increases in mutant mtDNA levels may be offset by increases in absolute wild-type mtDNA levels, and whether chronic inactivity leads to a selective down-regulation of wild-type mtDNA. Resistance training utilizes a different adaptive exercise approach to induce the transfer of normal mitochondrial templates from satellite cells to mature muscle fibers of patients with sporadic mtDNA disorders. The efficacy and safety of this approach needs to be further established. Our current inability to clearly advise patients to "use it or lose it" underscores the immediate urgency of studying the effects of exercise on skeletal muscle of patients with heteroplasmic mtDNA defects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-231
Number of pages11
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Dec 6 2004


  • Endurance and resistance training
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Mitochondrial myopathy
  • Satellite cell
  • Treatment
  • mtDNA defect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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