BACKGROUND: Abnormal glucose metabolism is a central feature of disorders with increased rates of cardiovascular disease. Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) are a key predictor for cardiovascular disease. We used genetic mouse models with increased HDL levels (apolipoprotein A-I transgenic [apoA-I tg]) and reduced HDL levels (apoA-I-deficient [apoA-I ko]) to investigate whether HDL modulates mitochondrial bioenergetics in skeletal muscle. METHODS AND RESULTS: ApoA-I ko mice exhibited fasting hyperglycemia and impaired glucose tolerance test compared with wild-type mice. Mitochondria isolated from gastrocnemius muscle of apoA-I ko mice displayed markedly blunted ATP synthesis. Endurance capacity during exercise exhaustion test was impaired in apoA-I ko mice. HDL directly enhanced glucose oxidation by increasing glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration rate in C2C12 muscle cells. ApoA-I tg mice exhibited lower fasting glucose levels, improved glucose tolerance test, increased lactate levels, reduced fat mass, associated with protection against age-induced decline of endurance capacity compared with wild-type mice. Circulating levels of fibroblast growth factor 21, a novel biomarker for mitochondrial respiratory chain deficiencies and inhibitor of white adipose lipolysis, were significantly reduced in apoA-I tg mice. Consistent with an increase in glucose utilization of skeletal muscle, genetically increased HDL and apoA-I levels in mice prevented high-fat diet-induced impairment of glucose homeostasis. CONCLUSIONS: In view of impaired mitochondrial function and decreased HDL levels in type 2 diabetes mellitus, our findings indicate that HDL-raising therapies may preserve muscle mitochondrial function and address key aspects of type 2 diabetes mellitus beyond cardiovascular disease.