A Focused Review of Myokines as a Potential Contributor to Muscle Hypertrophy From Resistance-Based Exercise

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2020 May;120(5):941-959. doi: 10.1007/s00421-020-04337-1. Epub 2020 Mar 6.


Purpose: Resistance exercise induces muscle growth and is an important treatment for age-related losses in muscle mass and strength. Myokines are hypothesized as a signal conveying physiological information to skeletal muscle, possibly to "fine-tune" other regulatory pathways. While myokines are released from skeletal muscle following contraction, their role in increasing muscle mass and strength in response to resistance exercise or training is not established. Recent research identified both local and systemic release of myokines after an acute bout of resistance exercise. However, it is not known whether myokines with putative anabolic function are mechanistically involved in producing muscle hypertrophy after resistance exercise. Further, nitric oxide (NO), an important mediator of muscle stem cell activation, upregulates the expression of certain myokine genes in skeletal muscle.

Method: In the systemic context of complex hypertrophic signaling, this review: (1) summarizes literature on several well-recognized, representative myokines with anabolic potential; (2) explores the potential mechanistic role of myokines in skeletal muscle hypertrophy; and (3) identifies future research required to advance our understanding of myokine anabolism specifically in skeletal muscle.

Result: This review establishes a link between myokines and NO production, and emphasizes the importance of considering systemic release of potential anabolic myokines during resistance exercise as complementary to other signals that promote hypertrophy.

Conclusion: Investigating adaptations to resistance exercise in aging opens a novel avenue of interdisciplinary research into myokines and NO metabolites during resistance exercise, with the longer-term goal to improve muscle health in daily living, aging, and rehabilitation.

Keywords: Anabolism; Cytokine; Muscle; Myokine; Nitric oxide; Skeletal muscle hypertrophy.

Publication types

  • Review