Exercise protects cardiac mitochondria against ischemia-reperfusion injury

Youngil Lee, Kisuk Min, Erin E. Talbert, Andreas N. Kavazis, Ashley J. Smuder, Wayne T. Willis, Scott K. Powers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: Three to five consecutive days of endurance exercise can protect the heart against an ischemia-reperfusion (IR) insult. However, the mechanisms responsible for this exercise-mediated cardioprotection remain unknown. Given the important role that mitochondria play in IR-induced cardiac myocyte injury, we hypothesized that exercise training promotes cardioprotection, at least in part, by increasing mitochondrial antioxidants, preventing mitochondrial release of reactive oxygen species, and protecting cardiac mitochondria against IR-induced oxidative damage and functional impairment. METHODS: To test our hypothesis, Sprague-Dawley rats were assigned to either sedentary (n = 16) or exercise-trained (n = 16) groups. Exercise-trained animals performed 5 d of treadmill running for 60 min•d -1 at 30 m•s -1. Hearts were excised from sedentary and exercised-trained animals and were either perfused for 80 min or exposed to 40 min of global ischemia followed by 45 min of reperfusion by using an ex vivo isolated working heart model. After the protocol, cardiac subsarcolemmal and intermyofibrillar mitochondria were isolated and used to determine respiratory control ratio, reactive oxygen species emission, and indices of oxidative stress and apoptosis. RESULTS: Our results support our hypothesis because exercise training protected both cardiac subsarcolemmal and intermyofibrillar mitochondria from IR-induced uncoupling and oxidative damage. Specifically, the levels of cardiac mitochondrial 4-hydroxynonenal-conjugated proteins were elevated in hearts from sedentary animals exposed to IR compared with cardiac mitochondria isolated from exercise-trained animals. Exercise also resulted in an increase in mitochondrial antioxidant enzymes (copper-zinc superoxide dismutase, manganese superoxide dismutase, and glutathione peroxidase) and prevented the IR-induced release of proapoptotic proteins from the mitochondria. CONCLUSIONS: Collectively, these novel findings reveal that exercise-induced cardioprotection is mediated, at least in part, through mitochondrial adaptations resulting in a mitochondrial phenotype that resists IR-induced damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-405
Number of pages9
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes



ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


Dive into the research topics of 'Exercise protects cardiac mitochondria against ischemia-reperfusion injury'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this