High-intensity interval exercise increases humanin, a mitochondrial encoded peptide, in the plasma and muscle of men

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2020 May 1;128(5):1346-1354. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00032.2020. Epub 2020 Apr 9.


Humanin is a small regulatory peptide encoded within the 16S ribosomal RNA gene (MT-RNR2) of the mitochondrial genome that has cellular cyto- and metabolo-protective properties similar to that of aerobic exercise training. Here we investigated whether acute high-intensity interval exercise or short-term high-intensity interval training (HIIT) impacted skeletal muscle and plasma humanin levels. Vastus lateralis muscle biopsies and plasma samples were collected from young healthy untrained men (n = 10, 24.5 ± 3.7 yr) before, immediately following, and 4 h following the completion of 10 × 60 s cycle ergometer bouts at V̇o2peak power output (untrained). Resting and postexercise sampling was also performed after six HIIT sessions (trained) completed over 2 wk. Humanin protein abundance in muscle and plasma were increased following an acute high-intensity exercise bout. HIIT trended (P = 0.063) to lower absolute humanin plasma levels, without effecting the response in muscle or plasma to acute exercise. A similar response in the plasma was observed for the small humanin-like peptide 6 (SHLP6), but not SHLP2, indicating selective regulation of peptides encoded by MT-RNR2 gene. There was a weak positive correlation between muscle and plasma humanin levels, and contraction of isolated mouse EDL muscle increased humanin levels ~4-fold. The increase in muscle humanin levels with acute exercise was not associated with MT-RNR2 mRNA or humanin mRNA levels (which decreased following acute exercise). Overall, these results suggest that humanin is an exercise-sensitive mitochondrial peptide and acute exercise-induced humanin responses in muscle are nontranscriptionally regulated and may partially contribute to the observed increase in plasma concentrations.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Small regulatory peptides encoded within the mitochondrial genome (mitochondrial derived peptides) have been shown to have cellular cyto- and metabolo-protective roles that parallel those of exercise. Here we provide evidence that humanin and SHLP6 are exercise-sensitive mitochondrial derived peptides. Studies to determine whether mitochondrial derived peptides play a role in regulating exercise-induced adaptations are warranted.

Keywords: exercise; humanin; mitochondrial derived peptides; mitokine; small humanin-like peptides.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't