Road to exercise mimetics: targeting nuclear receptors in skeletal muscle

    1. Ronald M Evans1,2
    1. 1Gene Expression Laboratory
      2Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to R M Evans; Email: evans{at}


    Skeletal muscle is the largest organ in the human body and is the major site for energy expenditure. It exhibits remarkable plasticity in response to physiological stimuli such as exercise. Physical exercise remodels skeletal muscle and enhances its capability to burn calories, which has been shown to be beneficial for many clinical conditions including the metabolic syndrome and cancer. Nuclear receptors (NRs) comprise a class of transcription factors found only in metazoans that regulate major biological processes such as reproduction, development, and metabolism. Recent studies have demonstrated crucial roles for NRs and their co-regulators in the regulation of skeletal muscle energy metabolism and exercise-induced muscle remodeling. While nothing can fully replace exercise, development of exercise mimetics that enhance or even substitute for the beneficial effects of physical exercise would be of great benefit. The unique property of NRs that allows modulation by endogenous or synthetic ligands makes them bona fide therapeutic targets. In this review, we present an overview of the current understanding of the role of NRs and their co-regulators in skeletal muscle oxidative metabolism and summarize recent progress in the development of exercise mimetics that target NRs and their co-regulators.

    • Revision received 31 October 2013
    • Accepted 1 November 2013
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