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The term myokine refers to cytokines and other peptides that are produced, expressed, and released by muscle fibers and exert either autocrine, paracrine or endocrine effects. Of particular interest is the fact that contractile activity plays a role in regulating the expression of these cytokines in skeletal muscle.[1][2] The present definition of this term is attributed to Dr. Bente Klarlund Pedersen et al., who originally suggested its use in 2003.[3] (The integrity of this research came under scrutiny due to irregularities in her published work originating from co-author Milena Penkowa[4] and other procedural irregularities found by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty, but subsequently rejected by the Danish Eastern High Court, clearing Dr. Bente Klarlund Pedersen of the scientific dishonesty charges.[5])

As cytokines and peptides, myokines are presently being identified by researchers within a broad category of small proteins (~5–20 kDa) and proteoglycans that are important in cell signaling. Myokines are released by cells and affect the behavior of other cells, and sometimes the releasing cell itself. When engaged in intercellular communication, these molecules fulfill diverse roles in regulating cellular expression and differentiation. Their systemic effects occur at mere picomolar concentrations. Myokines are involved in exercise-associated metabolic changes, as well as in the metabolic changes following training adaptation.[6] Myokines are of particular interest in exercise physiology for their roles in such functions as tissue regeneration and repair, maintenance of healthy bodily functioning, and immunomodulation. In fact, immunomodulation and immunoregulation were a particular focus of early myokine research, as, according to Dr. Pedersen and her colleagues, "the interactions between exercise and the immune system provided a unique opportunity to evaluate the role of underlying endocrine and cytokine mechanisms."[7]

Interleukin-6 and the Origins of the Myokine Concept[edit]

Myostatin was the first myokine to be identified. Its discovery occurred in Se-Jin Lee’s laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in 1997.[8][9] Both aerobic exercise and strength training in humans and animals attenuate myostatin expression and myostatin inactivation seems to potentiate the beneficial effects of endurance exercise on metabolism.[10]

While myostatin was the first muscle-derived peptide to fulfill the criteria for a myokine, the gp130 receptor cytokine IL-6 (Interleukin 6) was the first myokine that was found to be secreted into the blood stream in response to muscle contractions. Aerobic exercise provokes a systemic cytokine response, including, for example, IL-6, IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra), and IL-10 (Interleukin 10). IL-6 was serendipitously discovered as a myokine because of the observation that it increased in an exponential fashion proportional to the length of exercise and the amount of muscle mass engaged in the exercise. It has been consistently demonstrated that the plasma concentration of IL-6 increases during muscular exercise. This increase is followed by the appearance of IL-1ra and the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. In general, the cytokine response to exercise and sepsis differs with regard to TNF-α. Thus, the cytokine response to exercise is not preceded by an increase in plasma-TNF-α. Following exercise, the basal plasma IL-6 concentration may increase up to 100-fold, but less dramatic increases are more frequent. The exercise-induced increase of plasma IL-6 occurs in an exponential manner and the peak IL-6 level is reached at the end of the exercise or shortly thereafter. It is the combination of mode, intensity, and duration of the exercise that determines the magnitude of the exercise-induced increase of plasma IL-6.[11]

IL-6 had previously been classified as a proinflammatory cytokine. Therefore, it was first thought that the exercise-induced IL-6 response was related to muscle damage.[12] However, it has become evident that eccentric exercise is not associated with a larger increase in plasma IL-6 than exercise involving concentric “nondamaging” muscle contractions. This finding clearly demonstrates that muscle damage is not required to provoke an increase in plasma IL-6 during exercise. As a matter of fact, eccentric exercise may result in a delayed peak and a much slower decrease of plasma IL-6 during recovery.[13]

IL-6, among an increasing number of other recently identified myokines, thus remains an important topic of myokine research. It appears in muscle tissue and in the circulation during exercise at levels up to one hundred times basal rates, as noted, and is seen as having a beneficial impact on health and bodily functioning in most circumstances. P. Munoz-Canoves et al. write: "It appears consistently in the literature that IL-6, produced locally by different cell types, has a positive impact on the proliferative capacity of muscle stem cells. This physiological mechanism functions to provide enough muscle progenitors in situations that require a high number of these cells, such as during the processes of muscle regeneration and hypertrophic growth after an acute stimulus. IL-6 is also the founding member of the myokine family of muscle-produced cytokines. Indeed, muscle-produced IL-6 after repeated contractions also has important autocrine and paracrine benefits, acting as a myokine, in regulating energy metabolism, controlling, for example, metabolic functions and stimulating glucose production. It is important to note that these positive effects of IL-6 and other myokines are normally associated with its transient production and short-term action."[14]

Skeletal Muscle as a Secretory Organ[edit]

The emerging understanding of skeletal muscle as a secretory organ, and of myokines as mediators of physical fitness through the practice of regular physical exercise (including in particular strength training and aerobic exercise), as well as new awareness of the anti-inflammatory and thus disease prevention aspects of exercise, is thus transforming our broad understanding of the field of health promotion. Of particular interest is the fact that differing muscle fiber types (slow twitch oxidative, intermediate and fast twitch fibers) release differing clusters of myokines during contraction. This implies that variation of exercise types, particularly aerobic training/endurance training and muscle contraction against resistance (strength training) may offer differing myokine-induced benefits. So far, this topic, while potentially important, has been discussed primarily by fitness training specialists who have not conducted scientifically-controlled studies to verify this intuitively logical supposition.[15] Perhaps the ultimate implication of understanding muscle as an endocrine organ in light of muscle typology (see Skeletal_striated_muscle#Fiber_typing) is that regular engagement of the full range of muscle types through varying exercise strategies may be necessary for the proper functioning of muscle as an endocrine organ. Further research will be required to confirm or rule out this hypothesis.

In a 2012 overview, Pedersen and Febbraio presented the following in an article abstract: "During the past decade, skeletal muscle has been identified as a secretory organ. Accordingly, we have suggested that cytokines and other peptides that are produced, expressed and released by muscle fibres and exert either autocrine, paracrine or endocrine effects should be classified as myokines. The finding that the muscle secretome consists of several hundred secreted peptides provides a conceptual basis and a whole new paradigm for understanding how muscles communicate with other organs, such as adipose tissue, liver, pancreas, bones and brain. However, some myokines exert their effects within the muscle itself. Thus, myostatin, LIF, IL-6 and IL-7 are involved in muscle hypertrophy and myogenesis, whereas BDNF and IL-6 are involved in AMPK-mediated fat oxidation. IL-6 also appears to have systemic effects on the liver, adipose tissue and the immune system, and mediates crosstalk between intestinal L cells and pancreatic islets. Other myokines include the osteogenic factors IGF-1 and FGF-2; FSTL-1, which improves the endothelial function of the vascular system; and the PGC-1alpha-dependent myokine irisin, which drives brown fat-like development. Studies in the past few years suggest the existence of yet unidentified factors, secreted from muscle cells, which may influence cancer cell growth and pancreas function. Many proteins produced by skeletal muscle are dependent upon contraction; therefore, physical inactivity probably leads to an altered myokine response, which could provide a potential mechanism for the association between sedentary behaviour and many chronic diseases."

The authors concluded: "In summary, physical inactivity and muscle disuse lead to loss of muscle mass and accumulation of visceral adipose tissue and consequently to the activation of a network of inflammatory pathways, which promote development of insulin resistance, atherosclerosis, neurodegeneration and tumour growth and, thereby, promote the development of a cluster of chronic diseases. By contrast, the finding that muscles produce and release myokines provides a molecular basis for understanding how physical activity could protect against premature mortality.... Given that muscle is the largest organ in the body, the identification of the muscle secretome could set a new agenda for the scientific community. To view skeletal muscle as a secretory organ provides a conceptual basis for understanding how muscles communicate with other organs such as adipose tissue, liver, pancreas, bone and brain. Physical inactivity or muscle disuse potentially leads to an altered or impaired myokine response and/or resistance to the effects of myokines, which explains why lack of physical activity increases the risk of a whole network of diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, T2DM (Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus), cancer and osteoporosis."[16]

Interleukin 15[edit]

Note that interleukin-15 appears to play a significant role in the reduction of visceral (intra-abdominal) fat. This myokine effect is of particular importance, as visceral[17] fat is prone to inflammation, and is thus seen as a primary contributor to the development of inflammatory diseases. Dr. Pedersen writes, "Recently, we demonstrated that IL-15 mRNA levels were upregulated in human skeletal muscle following a bout of strength training, suggesting that IL-15 may accumulate within the muscle as a consequence of regular training. We further demonstrated a negative association in humans between plasma IL-15 concentration and trunk fat mass, but not limb fat mass. In support of this finding, we demonstrated a decrease in visceral fat mass, but not subcutaneous fat mass, when IL-15 was overexpressed in murine muscle. Quinn and colleagues found that elevated circulating levels of IL-15 in mice resulted in significant reductions in body fat and increased bone mineral content, without appreciably affecting lean body mass or levels of other cytokines. Although this model represents an artificial system, the findings lend some support to the idea that IL-15 secretion from muscle tissue may modulate visceral fat mass specifically via an endocrine mechanism."[18]

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor[edit]

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is also a myokine, though BDNF produced by contracting muscle is not released into circulation. Rather, BDNF produced in skeletal muscle appears to enhance the oxidation of fat. However, research has confirmed that skeletal muscle activation through exercise also contributes to an increase in BDNF secretion in the brain. A beneficial effect of BDNF on neuronal function has been noted in multiple studies.[19][20] Dr. Pedersen writes, "Neurotrophins are a family of structurally related growth factors, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which exert many of their effects on neurons primarily through Trk receptor tyrosine kinases. Of these, BDNF and its receptor TrkB are most widely and abundantly expressed in the brain. However, recent studies show that BDNF is also expressed in non-neurogenic tissues, including skeletal muscle. BDNF has been shown to regulate neuronal development and to modulate synaptic plasticity. BDNF plays a key role in regulating survival, growth and maintenance of neurons, and BDNF has a bearing on learning and memory. However, BDNF has also been identified as a key component of the hypothalamic pathway that controls body mass and energy homeostasis.

"Most recently, we have shown that BDNF appears to be a major player not only in central metabolic pathways but also as a regulator of metabolism in skeletal muscle. Hippocampal samples from Alzheimer’s disease donors show decreased BDNF expression and individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have low plasma levels of BDNF. Also, patients with major depression have lower levels of serum BDNF than normal control subjects. Other studies suggest that plasma BDNF is a biomarker of impaired memory and general cognitive function in ageing women and a low circulating BDNF level was recently shown to be an independent and robust biomarker of mortality risk in old women. Interestingly, low levels of circulating BDNF are also found in obese individuals and those with type 2 diabetes. In addition, we have demonstrated that there is a cerebral output of BDNF and that this is inhibited during hyperglycaemic clamp conditions in humans. This last finding may explain the concomitant finding of low circulating levels of BDNF in individuals with type 2 diabetes, and the association between low plasma BDNF and the severity of insulin resistance.

"BDNF appears to play a role in both neurobiology and metabolism. Studies have demonstrated that physical exercise may increase circulating BDNF levels in humans. To identify whether the brain is a source of BDNF during exercise, eight volunteers rowed for 4 h while simultaneous blood samples were obtained from the radial artery and the internal jugular vein. To further identify the putative cerebral region(s) responsible for BDNF release, mouse brains were dissected and analysed for BDNF mRNA expression following treadmill exercise. In humans, a BDNF release from the brain was observed at rest and increased 2- to 3-fold during exercise. Both at rest and during exercise, the brain contributed 70–80% of the circulating BDNF, while this contribution decreased following 1 h of recovery. In mice, exercise induced a 3- to 5-fold increase in BDNF mRNA expression in the hippocampus and cortex, peaking 2 h after the termination of exercise. These results suggest that the brain is a major but not the sole contributor to circulating BDNF. Moreover, the importance of the cortex and hippocampus as sources of plasma BDNF becomes even more prominent in the response to exercise.”[21]

With respect to studies of exercise and brain function, a 2010 report is of particular interest. Erickson et al. have shown that the volume of the anterior hippocampus increased by 2% in response to aerobic training in a randomized controlled trial with 120 older adults. The authors also summarize several previously-established research findings relating to exercise and brain function: (1) Aerobic exercise training increases grey and white matter volume in the prefrontal cortex of older adults and increases the functioning of key nodes in the executive control network. (2) Greater amounts of physical activity have been associated with sparing of prefrontal and temporal brain regions over a 9-y period, which reduces the risk for cognitive impairment. (3) Hippocampal and medial temporal lobe volumes are larger in higher-fit older adults (larger hippocampal volumes have been demonstrated to mediate improvements in spatial memory). (4) Exercise training increases cerebral blood volume and perfusion of the hippocampus.[22]

Regarding the 2010 study, the authors conclude: "We also demonstrate that increased hippocampal volume is associated with greater serum levels of BDNF, a mediator of neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus. Hippocampal volume declined in the control group, but higher preintervention fitness partially attenuated the decline, suggesting that fitness protects against volume loss. Caudate nucleus and thalamus volumes were unaffected by the intervention. These theoretically important findings indicate that aerobic exercise training is effective at reversing hippocampal volume loss in late adulthood, which is accompanied by improved memory function."[23]

Myonectin (CTRP15)[edit]

Seldin, Peterson, Byerly, Wei and Wong clarify that most myokines are also secreted by non-muscle cells. In 2012, they reported: "The expression of all myokines described to date is not restricted to skeletal muscle; they are generally expressed by a variety of cell types, and most are, in fact, expressed at much higher levels by nonmuscle tissues. Prior to (our) study, no myokine has been discovered to be preferentially expressed by skeletal muscle. While characterizing the metabolic function of the C1q/TNF-related protein (CTRP) family of proteins we recently uncovered, we identified myonectin (CTRP15) as a novel member of the family on the basis of sequence homology in the shared C1q domain, the signature that defines this protein family.... (Myonectin) is a novel nutrient-responsive myokine secreted by skeletal muscle to regulate whole-body fatty acid metabolism.... Circulating levels of myonectin were tightly regulated by the metabolic state; fasting suppressed, but refeeding dramatically increased, its mRNA and serum levels. Although mRNA and circulating levels of myonectin were reduced in a diet-induced obese state, voluntary exercise increased its expression and circulating levels. Accordingly, myonectin transcript was up-regulated by compounds (forskolin, epinephrine, ionomycin) that raise cellular cAMP or calcium levels.... In vitro results of myonectin expression in myotubes suggest that exercise-induced rises in intracellular calcium levels may also up-regulate myonectin expression in intact skeletal muscle.... Consistent with enhanced mRNA expression in skeletal muscle of mice subjected to voluntary exercise, circulating levels of myonectin also increased, suggesting a potential role of myonectin in exercise-induced physiology.

"Given that exercise induces myonectin expression in skeletal muscle, we next addressed whether short- and long-term changes in nutritional/metabolic state also regulate myonectin expression and circulating levels. Surprisingly, an overnight fast greatly suppressed myonectin expression, but a 2-h refeeding period (following an overnight fast) dramatically up-regulated its mRNA expression in skeletal muscle. Intriguingly, refeeding induced myonectin mRNA expression to a much greater extent in soleus than in plantaris muscle fiber of both male and female mice (data not shown), suggesting that myonectin expression may be regulated differentially depending on muscle fiber type. Consistent with the mRNA data, fasting reduced, but refeeding substantially increased, circulating levels of myonectin.... As compared with mice fed an isocaloric matched low-fat diet, mice fed a high-fat diet had lower myonectin mRNA and serum levels, suggesting that obesity-induced alteration in energy balance may be linked to dysregulation of myonectin-mediated processes in the obese state.... A relatively modest rise in serum myonectin levels was sufficient to lower (by >30%) nonesterified free fatty acid (NEFA) levels over time relative to vehicle-injected controls. However, no significant difference was observed in serum triacylglycerol levels between the two groups of mice. These data suggest a potential role of myonectin in regulating systemic fatty acid metabolism.... Treatment of adipocytes with recombinant myonectin (5 micrograms/ml) also enhanced fatty acid uptake to the same extent as insulin.... To determine whether myonectin-mediated enhancement of lipid uptake is specific to adipocytes, we also tested the effect of myonectin on lipid uptake in rat H4IIE hepatocytes. We observed a modest (>25%) but consistent increase in fatty acid uptake into hepatocytes stimulated with myonectin (5 micrograms/ml), an effect similar to cells treated with a saturating dose of insulin (50 nM).... Together, these results indicate that myonectin promotes lipid uptake into adipocytes and hepatocytes via transcriptional up-regulation of genes involved in fatty acid uptake....

"We provide the first characterization of myonectin, with in vitro and in vivo evidence that it is a novel myokine with important metabolic function. Unlike the other CTRPs characterized to date, myonectin (CTRP15) is expressed and secreted predominantly by skeletal muscle.... (Our) results suggest that myonectin is a nutrient-responsive metabolic regulator secreted by skeletal muscle in response to changes in cellular energy state resulting from glucose or fatty acid fluxes. Many metabolically relevant secreted proteins (e.g. adiponectin, leptin, resistin, and RBP) and the signaling pathways they regulate in tissues are known to be dysregulated in the condition of obesity. The reduction in expression and circulating levels of myonectin in the obese state may represent yet another component of the complex metabolic circuitry dysregulated by excess caloric intake. Although exercise has long been known to have profound positive impacts on systemic insulin sensitivity and energy balance, the underlying mechanisms remain incompletely understood. That voluntary exercise dramatically increases the expression and circulating levels of myonectin to promote fatty acid uptake into cells may underlie one of the beneficial effects of physical exercise.... A modest rise in the circulating levels of myonectin resulting from recombinant protein administration is sufficient to lower serum NEFA without altering serum triglyceride levels. Unlike CTRP1, CTRP3 and CTRP12, injection of recombinant myonectin into mice appears to have no glucose-lowering effect. Reduction in circulating NEFA is not due to suppression of adipose tissue lipolysis; rather, it results from increased fatty acid uptake by adipocytes and hepatocytes. Although the myonectin-mediated enhancement of lipid uptake in vitro appears modest (25–50%), in fact, the magnitude of this effect is comparable with cells stimulated with 50 nM insulin, a saturating dose that leads to maximum increase in fatty acid uptake.... In accordance with myonectin mediating its metabolic effect through a transcriptional mechanism, a reduction in circulating NEFA in mice occurred only 2 h after recombinant protein injection, a lag period presumably required for mRNA and protein synthesis."[24]


Decorin is an example of a proteoglycan which functions as a myokine. Kanzleiter et al have established that this myokine is secreted during muscular contraction against resistance, and plays a role in muscle growth. They reported on July 1, 2014: "The small leucine-rich proteoglycan decorin has been described as a myokine for some time. However, its regulation and impact on skeletal muscle (had) not been investigated in detail. In (our recent) study, we report decorin to be differentially expressed and released in response to muscle contraction using different approaches. Decorin is released from contracting human myotubes, and circulating decorin levels are increased in response to acute resistance exercise in humans. Moreover, decorin expression in skeletal muscle is increased in humans and mice after chronic training. Because decorin directly binds myostatin, a potent inhibitor of muscle growth, we investigated a potential function of decorin in the regulation of skeletal muscle growth. In vivo overexpression of decorin in murine skeletal muscle promoted expression of the pro-myogenic factor Mighty, which is negatively regulated by myostatin. We also found Myod1 and follistatin to be increased in response to decorin overexpression. Moreover, muscle-specific ubiquitin ligases atrogin1 and MuRF1, which are involved in atrophic pathways, were reduced by decorin overexpression. In summary, our findings suggest that decorin secreted from myotubes in response to exercise is involved in the regulation of muscle hypertrophy and hence could play a role in exercise-related restructuring processes of skeletal muscle."[25]


Rana et al. reported in January 2014 that irisin (fibronectin type III domain-containing protein 5 or FNDC5), a recently described myokine hormone produced and secreted by acutely exercising skeletal muscles, is thought to bind white adipose tissue cells via undetermined receptors. Irisin has been reported to promote a brown adipose tissue-like phenotype upon white adipose tissue by increasing cellular mitochondrial density and expression of uncoupling protein-1, thereby increasing adipose tissue energy expenditure via thermogenesis. This is considered important, because excess visceral adipose tissue in particular distorts the whole body energy homeostasis, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and raises exposure to a milieu of adipose tissue-secreted hormones (adipokines) that promote inflammation and cellular aging. The authors enquired whether the favorable impact of irisin on white adipose tissue might be associated with maintenance of telomere length, a well-established genetic marker in the aging process. By assessing plasma irisin levels in 81 healthy individuals and performing a multiple regression analysis, using backward elimination, it was found that relative telomere length can be predicted not only by age (b=−0.00735, p=0.001), which is well-known, but also by plasma irisin levels (b=0.04527, p=0.021). The authors reported that age (p<0.001), height (p=0.045), total body fat percentage (p=0.031), abdominal fat percentage (p=0.038), visceral fat score (p<0.001), plasma leptin levels (p=0.029) and plasma irisin levels (p=0.011) displayed significant correlation with natural log-transformed ratio of telomere to the normalising genomic control sequence (T/S ratio). Additionally, total muscle mass exhibited a correlation that was nearly significant (p=0.06). They conclude that these data support the view that irisin may have a role in the modulation not only of energy balance but also the aging process.[26]

In their discussion, the authors state: "Metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes have a negative impact on the ageing process. There is consequently an increasing focus on research into these disorders to reduce premature morbidity and mortality. Calorie restriction and/or regular exercise are known to promote longevity and reverse many of the negative effects of metabolic diseases; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying these benefits remain elusive. The discovery of irisin, which prompts a PGC1-α dependent ‘browning’ of white adipose tissue to a brown adipose tissue-like phenotype and upregulates thermogenesis and energy expenditure may provide a novel mechanism by which modest exercise may inhibit age-related decline. Previous studies have identified that lifestyle factors including exercise can have a significant impact on the accumulation of DNA damage and telomere length. To our knowledge, this study is the first to examine a possible association between plasma irisin and TL. Plasma irisin levels in our cohort only showed a significant correlation with telomere length, and no association was observed with any other factor measured. The reduction in telomere length with ageing is well recognised and, as expected, was confirmed by the inverse relationship between age and telomere length in our cohort (p=0.001). Collectively, these associations offer considerable predictive power. Since plasma irisin correlates with telomere length (p=0.027), irisin may serve as a hormone with anti-ageing properties. Previous research has shown that exercise, which increases plasma irisin, can modulate telomere length; indeed, VO2max is strongly associated with telomere length. The data presented (in our study) represent a potential mechanism by which exercise is associated with increased telomere length. The precise mechanisms through which irisin can modulate telomere length in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) is as yet unknown. The possibility exists that irisin has direct effects upon PBMCs. Previously published data has shown that irisin activates signalling pathways associated with the regulation of cellular proliferation including p38 MAPK which has previously been shown to regulate expression of human telomerase reverse transcriptase. It is also possible that the association reported here is due to indirect effects involving white adipose tissue. Further studies are required to clarify the mechanism by which irisin modulates telomere length in PBMCs."[27]

While the potential use of myokines as therapeutic agents so far remains speculative, irisin is of interest in this regard. It is not yet evident, for example, that myokines in isolation exert a consistently beneficial impact. Myokines may be associated with inflammatory states when not secreted by contracting muscle fibers, where their desirable effects are characterized by transient production and short-term action. This is the case with IL-6, which shows long-lasting elevated systemic levels in persistent inflammatory conditions and some types of cancer and other chronic disease states.[28]

However, exogenous irisin may aid in heightening energy expenditure, and thus in reducing obesity. Boström et al. reported on December 14, 2012: "Since the conservation of calories would likely provide an overall survival advantage for mammals, it appears paradoxical that exercise would stimulate the secretion of a polypeptide hormone that increases thermogenesis and energy expenditure. One explanation for the increased irisin expression with exercise in mouse and man may have evolved as a consequence of muscle contraction during shivering. Muscle secretion of a hormone that activates adipose thermogenesis during this process might provide a broader, more robust defense against hypothermia. The therapeutic potential of irisin is obvious. Exogenously administered irisin induces the browning of subcutaneous fat and thermogenesis, and it presumably could be prepared and delivered as an injectable polypeptide. Increased formation of brown or beige/brite fat has been shown to have anti-obesity, anti-diabetic effects in multiple murine models, and adult humans have significant deposits of UCP1-positive brown fat. (Our data show) that even relatively short treatments of obese mice with irisin improves glucose homeostasis and causes a small weight loss. Whether longer treatments with irisin and/or higher doses would cause more weight loss remains to be determined. The worldwide, explosive increase in obesity and diabetes strongly suggests exploring the clinical utility of irisin in these and related disorders. Another potentially important aspect of this work relates to other beneficial effects of exercise, especially in some diseases for which no effective treatments exist. The clinical data linking exercise with health benefits in many other diseases suggests that irisin could also have significant effects in these disorders."[29]

While the murine findings reported by Boström et al. appear encouraging, other researchers have questioned whether irisin operates in a similar manner in humans. For example, Timmons et al. noted that over 1,000 genes are upregulated by exercise and examined how expression of FNDC5 was affected by exercise in ~200 humans. They found that it was upregulated only in highly active elderly humans, casting doubt on the conclusions of Boström et al.[30] Further discussion of this issue can be found in the Wikipedia entry for irisin under the "function" heading.

Secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine (SPARC)[edit]

Aoi et al. reported on August 9, 2012 that a novel myokine (SPARC), inhibits tumorigenesis in mice. The authors state: "A single bout of exercise increased the expression and secretion of SPARC in skeletal muscle in both mice and humans. In addition, in an azoxymethane-induced colon cancer mouse model, regular low-intensity exercise significantly reduced the formation of aberrant crypt foci in wild-type mice but not in SPARC-null mice. Furthermore, regular exercise enhanced apoptosis in colon mucosal cells and increased the cleaved forms of caspase-3 and caspase-8 in wild-type mice but not in SPARC-null mice. Culture experiments showed that SPARC secretion from myocytes was induced by cyclic stretch and inhibited proliferation with apoptotic effect of colon cancer cells. These findings suggest that exercise stimulates SPARC secretion from muscle tissues and that SPARC inhibits colon tumorigenesis by increasing apoptosis.... Our findings have important clinical implications in that administration of SPARC may be useful for the treatment and prevention of colon cancer and may contribute to establishing an evidence-based exercise prescription for prevention of colon carcinogenesis."[31]

Myokines Contribute in Mediating the Health Benefits of Exercise[edit]

In 2013, Dr. Pedersen summarized her research findings on myokines as follows: "Skeletal muscle is the largest organ in the body. Skeletal muscles are primarily characterized by their mechanical activity required for posture, movement, and breathing, which depends on muscle fiber contractions. However, skeletal muscle is not just a component in our locomotor system. Recent evidence has identified skeletal muscle as a secretory organ. We have suggested that cytokines and other peptides that are produced, expressed, and released by muscle fibers and exert either autocrine, paracrine, or endocrine effects should be classified as 'myokines.' The muscle secretome consists of several hundred secreted peptides. This finding provides a conceptual basis and a whole new paradigm for understanding how muscles communicate with other organs such as adipose tissue, liver, pancreas, bones, and brain. In addition, several myokines exert their effects within the muscle itself. Many proteins produced by skeletal muscle are dependent upon contraction. Therefore, it is likely that myokines may contribute in the mediation of the health benefits of exercise.[32]

Scientific Controversy[edit]

According to a University Post summary article of September 7, 2014, as published by University of Copenhagen, "In early April 2011, Bente Klarlund Pedersen was reported for four articles that she had co-authored with the former neuroscientist Milena Penkowa in 2003 and 2005 to the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (UVVU). The photos used in articles appeared to be - and were later proven to have been - tampered with.... However, according to Dr. Pedersen, the manipulated images didn't actually affect the results in the articles – they were not at odds with what was expected in a scientific context, and have widely been confirmed in other studies since.... In May 2011, as a result of the report Klarlund had filed herself, she was asked to withdraw from her position as editor and on the advisory board of the scientific journals Journal of Physiology and Experimental Physiology. And in June, because of the on-going investigation, she withdrew from her position at the Novo Nordisk Foundation - the largest Danish private research fund.... Finally, in December 2013, after more than two years of processing, Klarlund was declared guilty of scientific dishonesty by UVVU in two of the three cases above. Firstly, for gross negligence for not having noticed that Milena Penkowa had manipulated microscope images of muscle cells. Penkowa was the guilty party, but this was still 'a case for gross negligence on Klarlund's part, according to UVVU. In September 2013, in response to the draft-verdict issued a couple of months before the final verdict, Klarlund had told that individual authors ought to be responsible for their own work, and not that of their co-authors: 'Research nowadays is interdisciplinary, so one cannot possible have complete insight into the methods of others,' she said, adding that it is wrong to equate error with attempts to deceive.... For the second part of the verdict, UVVU claimed that data used from the same biopsies in six different articles is a case of "unclear construction of data". Klarlund countered that this isn't a case of re-using data, but rather biological material from a single test being used to different ends: Much research is based on material from biobanks, so it is impossible to keep tabs on what else it might have been used for. And as this is common practice, Klarlund's conviction could potentially lead to a veritable witch-hunt in the Danish scientific community. This inspired 70 scientists from universities and hospitals to sign a petition in Klarlund's defence, staying that 'it is wholly uninteresting from a scientific point of view, whether or not the material has been or will be used in other research. UVVU's judgement of Bente Klarlund Pedersen as guilty of scientific dishonesty clashes with common scientific practice and has no rational basis.' Her employers at the University of Copenhagen and Rigshospitalet chose to stand by her, but also promised to make sure to oversee her research for a two-year period to ensure that everything is done by the book." [33]

In an earlier article, dated September 5, 2013, the University of Copenhagen University Post reported: "DCSD claims that data used from the same biopsies in six different articles is a case of 'unclear construction of data.' Klarlund stresses, on the other hand, that this isn't a case of re-using data, but one of biological material from a single test being used to different ends. To illustrate her point, she has included ten examples of scientists who have done exactly the same, including one from her accuser and Head of DCSD, Henrik Galbo. Much research is based on material from so-called biobanks, so it is impossible to keep tabs on what else it might have been used for. If Klarlund is implicated, this kind of common practice could potentially be deemed scientifically dishonest and hinder research.... Both parties had until 15 August (2013) to address the draft accusation, but the case, which has already taken over two years, might have to start over. Klarlund's lawyer Eigil Lego Andersen has found out that the Danish Minister of Science Morten Østergaard has extended the DCSD members processing Penkowa and Klarlund's cases' responsibilities past the six-year legal limit. Although this exception was made to limit resources spent on the two cases, Klarlund's lawyer says it is against the law. 'The members that have been chosen to uphold scientific honesty should not be doing so based on dishonest grounds,' says Klarlund. Her lawyer says that the draft accusation is lacking in terms of content, method and reasoning. Therefore he and Klarlund would like new people to review the case." [34]


  1. ^ Bente Klarlund Pedersen , Thorbjörn C. A. Åkerström , Anders R. Nielsen , Christian P. Fischer. "Role of myokines in exercise and metabolism." Journal of Applied Physiology | Published 1 September 2007 Vol. 103no. 1093-1098DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00080.2007
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  3. ^ Pedersen, B. K. et al. Searching for the exercise factor: is IL‑6 a candidate? J. Muscle Res. Cell Motil. 24, 113–119 (2003).
  4. ^ Jump, Paul (9 January 2014). "Scientist’s dishonest reporting of work could sink those in her wake". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Zieler, Sebastian (17 February 2015). "Timeline: The Bente Klarlund Pedersen case". University of Copenhagen. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
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