Skeletal muscle metabolism is highly dependent on mitochondrial function, with impaired mitochondrial biogenesis associated with the development of metabolic diseases such as insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Mitochondria display substantial plasticity in skeletal muscle, and are highly sensitive to levels of physical activity. It is thought that physical activity promotes mitochondrial biogenesis in skeletal muscle through increased expression of genes encoded in both the nuclear and the mitochondrial genome; however, how this process is co-ordinated at the cellular level is poorly understood. Nuclear receptors (NRs) are key signalling proteins capable of integrating environmental factors and mitochondrial function, thereby providing a potential link between exercise and mitochondrial biogenesis. The aim of this review is to highlight the function of NRs in skeletal muscle mitochondrial biogenesis and discuss the therapeutic potential of NRs for the management and treatment of chronic metabolic disease.

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