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Mathilde Daudon, Christelle Ramé, Christopher Price, and Joelle Dupont

Fibronectin type III domain-containing 5 (FNDC5) is a transmembrane protein discovered in 2012 that is cleaved to release the adipokine-myokine, irisin. Originally described as an exercise hormone that browns white adipose tissue and increases glucose metabolism, irisin secretion also increases during periods of rapid adipose mobilization, such as the post-partum period in dairy cattle when ovarian activity is suppressed. The effect of irisin on follicle function is unclear, and may be species dependent. In this study we hypothesized that irisin may compromise granulosa cell function in cattle using a well-established in vitro cell culture model. We detected FNDC5 mRNA and both FNDC5 and cleaved irisin proteins in follicle tissue and in follicular fluid. Abundance of FNDC5 mRNA was increased by treatment of cells with the adipokine visfatin but not by other adipokines tested. Addition of recombinant irisin to granulosa cells decreased basal and IGF-1- and FSH-dependent estradiol and progesterone secretion, and increased cell proliferation but had no effect on viability. Irisin decreased GLUT1, GLUT3 and GLUT4 mRNA levels in granulosa cells and increased lactate release in culture medium. The mechanism of action is in part through MAPK3/1 but not Akt, MAPK14 or PRKAA. We conclude that irisin may regulate bovine folliculogenesis by modulating granulosa cell steroidogenesis and glucose metabolism.

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Mathilde Daudon, Yves Bigot, Joëlle Dupont, and Christopher A Price

In Brief

Hormones secreted by muscle cells (myokines) are involved in the adaptive response to nutritional and metabolic changes. In this review, we discuss how one family of myokines may alter fertility in response to sudden changes in energy balance.


Dietary stress such as obesity and short-term changes in energy balance can disrupt ovarian function leading to infertility. Adipose tissue secretes hormones (adipokines), such as leptin and adiponectin, that are known to alter ovarian function. Muscles can also secrete endocrine factors, and one such family of myokines, the eleven Fibronectin type III domain-containing (FNDC) proteins, is emerging as important for energy sensing and homeostasis. In this review, we summarize the known roles the FNDC proteins play in energy homeostasis and explore potential impacts on fertility in females. The most well-known member, FNDC5, is the precursor of the ‘exercise hormone’, irisin, secreted by both muscle and adipose tissue. The receptors for irisin are integrins, and it has recently been shown to alter steroidogenesis in ovarian granulosa cells although the effects appear to be species or context specific, and irisin may improve uterine and placental function in women and rodent models. Another member, FNDC4, is also cleaved to release a bioactive protein that modulates insulin sensitivity in peripheral tissues and whose receptor, ADGRF5, is expressed in the ovary. As obese women and farm animals in negative energy balance (NEB) both have altered insulin sensitivity, secreted FNDC4 may impact ovarian function. We propose a model in which NEB or dietary imbalance alters plasma irisin and secreted FNDC4 concentrations, which then act on the ovary through their cognate receptors to reduce granulosa cell proliferation and follicle health. Research into these molecules will increase our understanding of energy sensing and fertility and may lead to new approaches to alleviate post-partum infertility.