Conditioned media from AICAR-treated skeletal muscle cells increases neuronal differentiation of adult neural progenitor cells

Hyo Youl Moon, Sahar Javadi, Matthew Stremlau, Kyeong Jin Yoon, Benjamin Becker, Sung Ung Kang, Xinyu Zhao, Henriette van Praag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Exercise has profound benefits for brain function in animals and humans. In rodents, voluntary wheel running increases the production of new neurons and upregulates neurotrophin levels in the hippocampus, as well as improving synaptic plasticity, memory function and mood. The underlying cellular mechanisms, however, remain unresolved. Recent research indicates that peripheral organs such as skeletal muscle, liver and adipose tissue secrete factors during physical activity that may influence neuronal function. Here we used an in vitro cell assay and proteomic analysis to investigate the effects of proteins secreted from skeletal muscle cells on adult hippocampal neural progenitor cell (aNPC) differentiation. We also sought to identify the relevant molecules driving these effects. Specifically, we treated rat L6 skeletal muscle cells with the AMP-kinase (AMPK) agonist 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-β-D-ribofuranoside (AICAR) or vehicle (distilled water). We then collected the conditioned media (CM) and fractionated it using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Treatment of aNPCs with a specific fraction of the AICAR-CM upregulated expression of doublecortin (DCX) and Tuj1, markers of immature neurons. Proteomic analysis of this fraction identified proteins known to be involved in energy metabolism, cell migration, adhesion and neurogenesis. Culturing differentiating aNPCs in the presence of one of the factors, glycolytic enzyme glucose-6-phosphate isomerase (GPI), or AICAR-CM, increased the proportion of neuronal (Tuj1 + ) and astrocytic, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP + ) cells. Our study provides further evidence that proteins secreted from skeletal muscle cells may serve as a critical communication link to the brain through factors that enhance neural differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-130
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • AMPK
  • Doublecortin
  • Exercise
  • HPLC
  • Muscle
  • Myokines
  • Neurogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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