A new study by the University of California at Irvine identifies sex-specific areas of muscle signaling to other tissues and that the organs and processes that affect muscles differ significantly between men and women. This new discovery provides insight into how muscle functions such as exercise promote healthy longevity, metabolism and cognition.
A study entitled “Genetic variation of putative myokine signaling is controlled by biological sex and sex hormones”, published in eLifeis the first to assess how genetic architecture affects muscle signaling in other tissues, and emphasizes that sex and estrogens are critical determinants of these processes.
“Muscle is critical for maintaining metabolic status, and impaired muscle function is a hallmark of diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” said lead author Marcus M. Seldin, PhD, assistant professor of biological chemistry at the UCI School of Medicine. .
Muscles secrete proteins called myokines, which play a role in various processes of interaction with other tissues. Myokines basically allow skeletal muscles to communicate with organs such as the kidneys, liver or brain, which is essential for the body to maintain metabolic balance. Some of the processes involved in myokine include inflammation, cancer, exercise-related changes and even cognition. Despite the clear importance of myokines for so many physiological outcomes, the way these proteins are regulated and their effects are not well understood.
For this study, the research team conducted a study of genetic correlations focused on the regulation of myokine genes, muscle cell composition, interstitial signaling, and interactions with genetic sex in humans. While expression levels of most myokines and cell proportions in skeletal muscle showed small relative differences between men and women, almost all significant inter-tissue enrichments worked in a sex-specific or hormone-dependent manner; especially with estradiol. These sex- and hormone-specific effects were consistent across key metabolic tissues: liver, pancreas, hypothalamus, intestine, heart, visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue. This study highlighted several examples, such as that muscle signals more to the pancreas in women compared to men where the liver dominates.
“We already know that skeletal muscle plays an integral role in coordinating physiological homeostasis. In this study, we sought to understand how muscles interact with metabolic tissues and illustrate the importance of considering the effects of genetic sex and sex hormones in the study of metabolism,” he said. Seldin.
In the future, the research team plans to develop cell-based systems to evaluate some of the new hormones discovered in this study and examine why they signal gender differences.
This work was supported by the State Institute of Public Health.
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