Vitor Lira, PhD

Contact Information

Office: 4324 PBDB 
Phone: 319-335-6966 
Faculty Profile

Brief description of current research:

Skeletal muscle and heart physiology are promptly affected in obesity and diabetes often leading to skeletal muscle insulin resistance and diabetic cardiomyopathy. Both exercise and calorie restriction improve skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity, are cardioprotective, and are among the most effective interventions for prevention and treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes. However, the cellular mechanisms of protection in skeletal muscle and the heart remain incompletely understood. Autophagy, a catabolic process required for dysfunctional protein and mitochondrial turnover, is instrumental for normal cell function. This process is stimulated by exercise and calorie restriction in skeletal muscle and the heart, but is generally downregulated in obesity and diabetes. Therefore, the mechanisms of regulation of the autophagy process and its interaction with other metabolic pathways in skeletal muscle and in the heart are a major focus of our research. We believe these studies will reveal novel potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.  

3 most influential diabetes/obesity/metabolism publications:

  • Lira VA, Brown DL, Lira AK, Kavazis AN, Soltow QA, Zeanah EH, & Criswell DS. Nitric oxide and AMPK cooperatively regulate PGC-1 in skeletal muscle cells. The Journal of physiology, 588(Pt 18), 3551–66, 2010.
  • Lira VA, Okutsu M, Zhang M, Greene NP, Laker RC, Breen DS, Hoehn KL, Yan Z. (2013). Autophagy is required for exercise training-induced skeletal muscle adaptation and improvement of physical performance. FASEB J, 27(10), 4184–4193, 2013.
  • Call JA, Chain KH, Martin KS, Lira VA, Okutsu M, Zhang M, Yan Z. Enhanced skeletal muscle expression of EcSOD mitigates streptozotocin-induced diabetic cardiomyopathy by reducing oxidative stress and aberrant cell signaling. Circ Heart Fail 2014 [Epub ahead of print].


“Often diabetes teaches discipline and perseverance to patients. It is with that same discipline and perseverance that together we will find more and better treatments until we cure it.”