Nature communications

Ampk phosphorylation of Ulk1 is required for targeting of mitochondria to lysosomes in exercise-induced mitophagy.

PMID 28916822


Mitochondrial health is critical for skeletal muscle function and is improved by exercise training through both mitochondrial biogenesis and removal of damaged/dysfunctional mitochondria via mitophagy. The mechanisms underlying exercise-induced mitophagy have not been fully elucidated. Here, we show that acute treadmill running in mice causes mitochondrial oxidative stress at 3-12 h and mitophagy at 6 h post-exercise in skeletal muscle. These changes were monitored using a novel fluorescent reporter gene, pMitoTimer, that allows assessment of mitochondrial oxidative stress and mitophagy in vivo, and were preceded by increased phosphorylation of AMP activated protein kinase (Ampk) at tyrosine 172 and of unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase 1 (Ulk1) at serine 555. Using mice expressing dominant negative and constitutively active Ampk in skeletal muscle, we demonstrate that Ulk1 activation is dependent on Ampk. Furthermore, exercise-induced metabolic adaptation requires Ulk1. These findings provide direct evidence of exercise-induced mitophagy and demonstrate the importance of Ampk-Ulk1 signaling in skeletal muscle.Exercise is associated with biogenesis and removal of dysfunctional mitochondria. Here the authors use a mitochondrial reporter gene to demonstrate the occurrence of mitophagy following exercise in mice, and show this is dependent on AMPK and ULK1 signaling.