Nuclear activators and coactivators in mammalian mitochondrial biogenesis

Richard C. Scarpulla*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

527 Scopus citations


The biogenesis of mitochondria requires the expression of a large number of genes, most of which reside in the nuclear genome. The protein-coding capacity of mtDNA is limited to 13 respiratory subunits necessitating that nuclear regulatory factors play an important role in governing nucleo-mitochondrial interactions. Two classes of nuclear transcriptional regulators implicated in mitochondrial biogenesis have emerged in recent years. The first includes DNA-binding transcription factors, typified by nuclear respiratory factor (NRF)-1, NRF-2 and others, that act on known nuclear genes that specify mitochondrial functions. A second, more recently defined class, includes nuclear coactivators typified by PGC-1 and related family members (PRC and PGC-1β). These molecules do not bind DNA but rather work through their interactions with DNA-bound transcription factors to regulate gene expression. An important feature of these coactivators is that their expression is responsive to physiological signals mediating thermogenesis, cell proliferation and gluconeogenesis. Thus, they have the ability to integrate the action of multiple transcription factors in orchestrating programs of gene expression essential to cellular energetics. The interplay of these nuclear factors appears to be a major determinant in regulating the biogenesis of mitochondria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Gene Structure and Expression
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 7 2002


  • Coactivator
  • Mitochondrion
  • NRF-1
  • PGC-1
  • PRC
  • Transcription factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Structural Biology
  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry


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