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Irisin: Boosting the brain-building benefits of physical activity

In the late 1990s, neuroscientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies compared the brains of mice given unlimited access to an exercise wheel to those of mice without an exercise wheel and discovered to their surprise that physical activity positively affects the number of new nerve cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain linked with learning and memory. Over a decade since this original study, it is now generally accepted that physical activity benefits the brain potentially through the increased expression of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). However, the molecular pathway behind these observations remains to be described. In a recent study published in Cell Metabolism, Dr. Wrann and colleagues from the Harvard Medical School demonstrated that endurance exercise led to the up-regulation in the hippocampus of a muscle protein known as FNDC5. This protein is cleaved and secreted as a smaller fragment called Irisin and plays an important role in energy regulation. FNDC5 expression was shown to correlate with peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC-1α) expression levels in various developmental stages and tissues, including neurons. Interestingly, BDNF expression was found to be regulated by FNDC5 in a cell-autonomous manner, and recombinant BDNF treatment led to the decreased expression of FNDC5 as part of a negative feedback loop. Finally, peripheral delivery of FNDC5 significantly increased BDNF expression in the hippocampus. Altogether, these results suggest that the PGC-1α/FNDC5/BDNF pathway is heavily implicated in the development of primary hippocampal neurons following physical activity and that the administration of Irisin could be a very promising therapeutic option against neurodegeneration.

Enzo Life Sciences offers neuroscientists a comprehensive range of products to study the links between exercise and cerebral health including chemicals such as neurotransmitter libraries, recombinant proteins such as Irisin or BDNF, and several antibodies, some of which are described below:

 

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References:

  • H. Van Praag, et al. Running increases cell proliferation and neurogenesis in the adult mouse dentate gyrus. Nat. Neurosci. (1999) 2: 266.
  • C.D. Wrann, et al. Exercise induces hippocampal BDNF through a PGC-1a/FNDC5 pathway. Cell. Metab. (2013).

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