Background: Exercise may activate a brown adipose-like phenotype in white adipose tissue. The aim of this systematic review was to identify the effects of physical activity on the link between peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC-1a) and fibronectin type III domain-containing protein 5 (FNDC5) in muscle, circulating Irisin and uncoupling protein one (UCP1) of white adipocytes in humans. Methods: Two databases (PubMed 1966 to 08/2016 and EMBASE 1974 to 08/2016) were searched using an appropriate algorithm. We included articles that examined physical activity and/or exercise in humans that met the following criteria: a) PGC-1a in conjunction with FNDC5 measurements, and b) FNDC5 and/or circulating Irisin and/or UCP1 levels in white adipocytes. Results: We included 51 studies (12 randomised controlled trials) with 2474 participants. Out of the 51 studies, 16 examined PGC-1a and FNDC5 in response to exercise, and only four found increases in both PGC-1a and FNDC5 mRNA and one showed increased FNDC5 mRNA. In total, 22 out of 45 studies that examined circulating Irisin in response to exercise showed increased concentrations when ELISA techniques were used; two studies also revealed increased Irisin levels measured via mass spectrometry. Three studies showed a positive association of circulating Irisin with physical activity levels. One study found no exercise effects on UCP1 mRNA in white adipocytes. Conclusions: The effects of physical activity on the link between PGC-1a, FNDC5 mRNA in muscle and UCP1 in white human adipocytes has attracted little scientific attention. Current methods for Irisin identification lack precision and, therefore, the existing evidence does not allow for conclusions to be made regarding Irisin responses to physical activity. We found a contrast between standardised review methods and accuracy of the measurements used. This should be considered in future systematic reviews.
Keywords: Exercise; FNDC5; Irisin; UCP1.