Relationship of muscle function to circulating myostatin, follistatin and GDF11 in older women and men

BMC Geriatr. 2018 Aug 30;18(1):200. doi: 10.1186/s12877-018-0888-y.


Background: Myostatin, its inhibitor follistatin, and growth/differentiation factor 11 (GDF11) have been proposed as factors that could potentially modify biological aging. The study aimed to test whether there is a relationship between these plasma circulating proteins and muscle strength, power and optimal shortening velocity (υopt) of older adults.

Methods: The cross-sectional study included 56 women and 45 men aged 60 years and older. Every participant underwent examination which included anthropometric and bioimpedance analysis measurements, functional and cognitive performance tests, muscle strength of upper and lower extremities, muscle power testing with two different methods and blood analyses.

Results: Women had higher plasma levels of myostatin and GDF11 than men. Men had higher plasma level of follistatin than women. In women, plasma level of myostatin was negatively correlated with left handgrip strength and υopt. Follistatin was negatively correlated with maximum power output (Pmax), power relative to kg of body mass (Pmax∙kg- 1) (friction-loaded cycle ergometer) and power at 70% of the 1-repetition maximum (1RM) strength value (P70%) of leg press (Keiser pneumatic resistance training equipment), and positively correlated with the Timed Up & Go (TUG) test. GDF11 was negatively correlated with body mass, body mass index, waist circumference, fat mass and the percentage of body fat. In men, there were no significant correlations observed between circulating plasma proteins and muscle function measures.

Conclusions: The circulating plasma myostatin and follistatin are negatively associated with muscle function in older women. There is stronger relationship between these proteins and muscle power than muscle strength. GDF11 has a higher association with the body mass and composition than muscle function in older women.

Keywords: Aging; Functional performance; Optimal shortening velocity; Quadriceps muscle power; Sarcopenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / blood*
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Anthropometry / methods
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / blood*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Follistatin / blood*
  • Growth Differentiation Factors / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Myostatin / blood*
  • Resistance Training / methods


  • Biomarkers
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • FST protein, human
  • Follistatin
  • GDF11 protein, human
  • Growth Differentiation Factors
  • MSTN protein, human
  • Myostatin