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Fibronectin type III domain containing 5
Available structures
PDB Ortholog search: PDBe, RCSB
Symbols FNDC5 ; FRCP2; irisin
External IDs OMIM611906 HomoloGene17812 GeneCards: FNDC5 Gene
Species Human Mouse
Entrez 252995 384061
Ensembl ENSG00000160097 ENSMUSG00000001334
UniProt Q8NAU1 Q8K4Z2
RefSeq (mRNA) NM_001171940 NM_027402
RefSeq (protein) NP_001165411 NP_081678
Location (UCSC) Chr 1:
32.86 – 32.87 Mb
Chr 4:
129.14 – 129.14 Mb
PubMed search [1] [2]

Fibronectin type III domain-containing protein 5, the precursor of irisin, is a protein that is encoded by the FNDC5 gene.[1]

Fibronectin domain-containing protein 5 is a membrane protein comprising a short cytoplasmic domain, a transmembrane segment, and an ectodomain consisting of a ~100 kDa fibronectin type III (FNIII) domain. The ectodomain has been proposed to be cleaved to give a soluble peptide hormone named irisin. Boström et al [2] proposed that irisin is secreted from muscle in response to exercise, and may mediate some beneficial effects of exercise in humans; potential for generating weight loss and blocking diabetes has been suggested.[3][4][5] Several other research groups have reproduced these results[6][7][8] while others have vigorously questioned the findings.[1][9][10][11]


FNDC5 was initially discovered in 2002 during a genome search for fibronectin type III domains[12] and also independently in a search for peroxisomal proteins.[1][13] Irisin was found to be a cleaved version of FNDC5. Boström and coworkers named the cleaved product irisin, after the Greek messenger goddess Iris.[2]

Biosynthesis and secretion[edit]

The FNDC5 gene encodes a prohormone, a single-pass type I membrane protein (human, 212 amino acids; mouse and rat, 209 amino acids) that is upregulated by muscular exercise and undergoes post-translational processing to generate irisin. The sequence of the protein includes a signal peptide, a single fibronectin type III (FNIII) domain, and a C-terminal hydrophobic domain that is probably anchored in the cell membrane. The production of irisin is similar to the shedding and release of other hormones and hormone-like polypeptides, such as EGF and TGFalpha, from transmembrane precursors. After the N-terminal signal peptide is removed, the peptide is proteolytically cleaved from the C-terminal moiety, glycosylated, and released as a hormone of 112 amino acids (in human, amino acids 32-143 of the full-length protein; in mouse and rat, amino acids 29-140) that comprises most of the FNIII repeat region. The sequence of irisin, the cleaved and secreted portion of FNDC5, is highly conserved in mammals; the human and murine sequences are identical.[2] However, the start codon of human FNDC5 is mutated to ATA, which causes it to be expressed at only 1% the level of other animals with the normal ATG start

A difference in the nucleotide sequence of human FNDC5 from that of mouse Fndc5 creates a different initiation codon, potentially generating a protein that begins at methionine-76 (Met-76). A protein initiated at Met-76 would be missing the signal peptide and would be trapped in the cytoplasm. Human FNDC5 could be initiated by the mutant ATA start codon, but Raschke et al [11] showed that this reduces the level of expression to 1% of that with the normal ATG start codon.


Exercise causes increased expression in muscle of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1 alpha (PGC-1alpha, encoded by the gene PPARGC1A), which is involved in adaptation to exercise. In mice, this causes production of the FNDC5 protein which is cleaved to give a new product irisin.[2][5] Due to its production through a mechanism initiated by muscular contraction, Pedersen and Febbraio class irisin as a myokine.[14]

Boström et al. proposed that irisin promotes the conversion of white fat to brown fat in humans which would make it a health promoting hormone.[3][4] Their proposal was based on evidence that FNDC5 induces thermogenin expression in fat cells, that overexpression of FNDC5 in the liver of mice prevented diet-induced weight gain, and that FNDC5 mRNA levels were elevated in a small number of human muscle samples after exercise.

However this proposal has been challenged by several groups.[15] 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.[9] Raschke et al. reported that there is a mutation in the start codon of the human gene for FNDC5 resulting in an alternative start codon, which reduced the protein level to 1% of that produced with the normal start codon when expressed in an artificial CMV-driven system. It was already known that FNDC5 used an alternative start codon together with many other expressed genes.[16] Raschke et al. concluded that any function of FNDC5 and irisin in mice might be lost in humans.[11] More than 30 reports[citation needed] have found irisin levels in human plasma using different, validated methods including Huh et al.[17] Wrann et al. show that hippocampal expression of Fndc5 in mice is induced by endurance exercise; peripheral delivery of Fndc5 to the liver by adenoviral vectors, which increases circulating irisin levels, activates a neuroprotective gene program in the brain, including expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).[18][19] Endurance exercise, which is known to improve cognitive function, and the important metabolic mediators PGC-1alpha and FNDC5 are therefore linked to expression of BDNF in the brain.

However Timmons noted that his prior screen did not see any increase in FNDC5 gene expression in response to exercise.[9] Erickson noted that the original cell culture discovery used a truncated protein, missing three of the seven beta strands.[1] He also noted that the antibody used in the that study was made against a peptide in the membrane portion of FNDC5, and so should not recognize the irisin portion. Raschke et al.[11] noted that the mutant start codon of human irisin reduced its expression to 1% of that in other animals with the normal start codon; the miniscule amounts of FNDC5 and irisin in humans are too low to have any physiological role. Albrecht et al.[10] examined the ELISA's used to quantify irisin levels in blood in 50-100 followup studies, and concluded that they had strong cross-reaction to non-specific blood proteins. They questioned the validity of all of these published studies, and called irisin "a myth, rather than an exercise-inducible myokine." Subsequently Jedrychowsky et al[20] used a sophisticated mass spec analysis to demonstrate that irisin peptide exists in human plasma and to measure its concentration as ~4 ng/ml, in the same range as insulin and other hormones. However, this is 20-200 times lower than the levels reported in the many studies using ELISA, so these studies would still seem questionable.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Erickson HP (Oct 2013). "Irisin and FNDC5 in retrospect: An exercise hormone or a transmembrane receptor?". Adipocyte 2 (4): 289–293. doi:10.4161/adip.26082. PMC 3774709. PMID 24052909. 
  2. ^ a b c d Boström P, Wu J, Jedrychowski MP, Korde A, Ye L, Lo JC, Rasbach KA, Boström EA, Choi JH, Long JZ, Kajimura S, Zingaretti MC, Vind BF, Tu H, Cinti S, Højlund K, Gygi SP, Spiegelman BM (Jan 2012). "A PGC1-α-dependent myokine that drives brown-fat-like development of white fat and thermogenesis". Nature 481 (7382): 463–468. doi:10.1038/nature10777. PMC 3522098. PMID 22237023. 
  3. ^ a b Courage KH. "Newly Discovered Hormone Boosts Effects of Exercise, Could Help Fend Off Diabetes". Observations. Scientific American. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Park A (April 8, 2009). "Brown Fat: A Fat That Helps You Lose Weight?". Health & Family (Time Magazine). Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Reynolds G (January 11, 2012). "Exercise Hormone May Fight Obesity and Diabetes". Well (New York Times). Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  6. ^ Zhang Y, Li R, Meng Y, Li S, Donelan W, Zhao Y, Qi L, Zhang M, Wang X, Cui T, Yang LJ, Tang D (Feb 2014). "Irisin stimulates browning of white adipocytes through mitogen-activated protein kinase p38 MAP kinase and ERK MAP kinase signaling". Diabetes 63 (2): 514–25. doi:10.2337/db13-1106. PMID 24150604. 
  7. ^ Wrann CD, White JP, Salogiannnis J, Laznik-Bogoslavski D, Wu J, Ma D, Lin JD, Greenberg ME, Spiegelman BM (Nov 2013). "Exercise induces hippocampal BDNF through a PGC-1α/FNDC5 pathway". Cell Metabolism 18 (5): 649–59. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2013.09.008. PMID 24120943. 
  8. ^ Wu J, Boström P, Sparks LM, Ye L, Choi JH, Giang AH, Khandekar M, Virtanen KA, Nuutila P, Schaart G, Huang K, Tu H, van Marken Lichtenbelt WD, Hoeks J, Enerbäck S, Schrauwen P, Spiegelman BM (Jul 2012). "Beige adipocytes are a distinct type of thermogenic fat cell in mouse and human". Cell 150 (2): 366–376. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2012.05.016. PMC 3402601. PMID 22796012. 
  9. ^ a b c Timmons JA, Baar K, Davidsen PK, Atherton PJ (Aug 2012). "Is irisin a human exercise gene?". Nature 488 (7413): E9–10; discussion E10–1. doi:10.1038/nature11364. PMID 22932392. 
  10. ^ a b Albrecht E, Norheim F, Thiede B, Holen T, Ohashi T, Schering L, Lee S, Brenmoehl J, Thomas S, Drevon CA, Erickson HP, Maak S (2015). "Irisin - a myth rather than an exercise-inducible myokine". Scientific Reports 5: 8889. doi:10.1038/srep08889. PMID 25749243. 
  11. ^ a b c d Raschke S, Elsen M, Gassenhuber H, Sommerfeld M, Schwahn U, Brockmann B, Jung R, Wisløff U, Tjønna AE, Raastad T, Hallén J, Norheim F, Drevon CA, Romacho T, Eckardt K, Eckel J (2013). López-Lluch G, ed. "Evidence against a beneficial effect of irisin in humans". PloS One 8 (9): e73680. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073680. PMC 3770677. PMID 24040023. 
  12. ^ Teufel A, Malik N, Mukhopadhyay M, Westphal H (Sep 2002). "Frcp1 and Frcp2, two novel fibronectin type III repeat containing genes". Gene 297 (1-2): 79–83. doi:10.1016/S0378-1119(02)00828-4. PMID 12384288. 
  13. ^ Ferrer-Martínez A, Ruiz-Lozano P, Chien KR (Jun 2002). "Mouse PeP: a novel peroxisomal protein linked to myoblast differentiation and development". Developmental Dynamics 224 (2): 154–167. doi:10.1002/dvdy.10099. PMID 12112469. 
  14. ^ Pedersen BK, Febbraio MA (Oct 2008). "Muscle as an endocrine organ: focus on muscle-derived interleukin-6". Physiological Reviews 88 (4): 1379–406. doi:10.1152/physrev.90100.2007. PMID 18923185. 
  15. ^ Servick K (2015). "Biomedicine. Woes for 'exercise hormone'". Science 347 (6228): 1299. doi:10.1126/science.347.6228.1299. PMID 25792309. 
  16. ^ Ivanov IP, Firth AE, Michel AM, Atkins JF, Baranov PV (May 2011). "Identification of evolutionarily conserved non-AUG-initiated N-terminal extensions in human coding sequences". Nucleic Acids Research 39 (10): 4220–4234. doi:10.1093/nar/gkr007. PMC 3105428. PMID 21266472. 
  17. ^ Huh JY, Panagiotou G, Mougios V, Brinkoetter M, Vamvini MT, Schneider BE, Mantzoros CS (Dec 2012). "FNDC5 and irisin in humans: I. Predictors of circulating concentrations in serum and plasma and II. mRNA expression and circulating concentrations in response to weight loss and exercise". Metabolism 61 (12): 1725–1738. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2012.09.002. PMC 3614417. PMID 23018146. 
  18. ^ Wrann CD, White JP, Salogiannnis J, Laznik-Bogoslavski D, Wu J, Ma D, Lin JD, Greenberg ME, Spiegelman BM (Nov 2013). "Exercise induces hippocampal BDNF through a PGC-1α/FNDC5 pathway". Cell Metabolism 18 (5): 649–59. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2013.09.008. PMID 24120943. 
  19. ^ Fuss J, Biedermann SV, Falfán-Melgoza C, Auer MK, Zheng L, Steinle J, Hörner F, Sartorius A, Ende G, Weber-Fahr W, Gass P (Feb 2014). "Exercise boosts hippocampal volume by preventing early age-related gray matter loss". Hippocampus 24 (2): 131–4. doi:10.1002/hipo.22227. PMID 24178895. Lay summaryNature Magazine. 
  20. ^ Jedrychowski MP Wrann CD Paulo JA Gerber KK Szpyt J Robinson MM Nair KS Gygi SP and Spiegelman BM (Aug 2015). "Detection and Quantitation of Circulating Human Irisin by Tandem Mass Spectrometry". Cell Metabolism. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2015.08.001. PMID 26278051.