Exercise induces a marked increase in plasma follistatin: Evidence that follistatin is a contraction-induced hepatokine

Jakob Hansen, Claus Brandt, Anders Rinnov Nielsen, Pernille Hojman, Martin Whitham, Mark A. Febbraio, Bente Klarlund Pedersen, Peter Plomgaard

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114 Citations (Scopus)


Follistatin is a member of the TGF- super family and inhibits the action of myostatin to regulate skeletal muscle growth. The regulation of follistatin during physical exercise is unclear but may be important because physical activity is a major intervention to prevent age-related sarcopenia. First, healthy subjects performed either bicycle or one-legged knee extensor exercise. Arterial-venous differences were assessed during the one-legged knee extensor experiment. Next, mice performed1hof swimming, and the expression of follistatin was examined in various tissues using quantitative PCR. Western blotting assessed follistatin protein content in the liver. IL-6 and epinephrine were investigated as drivers of follistatin secretion. After 3 h of bicycle exercise, plasma follistatin increased 3 h into recovery with a peak of 7-fold. No net release of follistatin could be detected from the exercising limb. In mice performing a bout of swimming exercise, increases in plasma follistatin as well as follistatin mRNA and protein expression in the liver were observed. IL-6 infusion to healthy young men did not affect the follistatin concentration in the circulation. When mice were stimulated with epinephrine, no increase in the hepatic mRNA of follistatin was observed. This is the first study to demonstrate that plasma follistatin is increased during exercise and most likely originates from the liver. These data introduce new perspectives regarding muscle-liver cross talk during exercise and during recovery from exercise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-171
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes

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