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Muscle, Bone, and Fat Crosstalk: the Biological Role of Myokines, Osteokines, and Adipokines

  • Muscle and Bone (A Bonetto and M Brotto, Section Editors)
  • Published:
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Purpose of Review

Skeletal muscle and bone are connected anatomically and physiologically, and play a crucial role in human locomotion and metabolism. Historically, the coupling between muscle and bone has been viewed in light of mechanotransduction, which dictates that the mechanical forces applied to muscle are transmitted to the skeleton to initiate bone formation. However, these organs also communicate through the endocrine system, orchestrated by a family of cytokines namely myokines (derived from myocytes) and osteokines (derived from bone cells). A third player in this biochemical crosstalk is adipose tissue and the secretion of adipokines (derived from adipocytes). In this review, we discuss the bidirectional effects of myokines and osteokines on muscle and bone metabolism, and the impact of adipokines on both of these secretory organs.

Recent Findings

Several myokines, notably, IL6, irisin, IGF-1, BDNF, myostatin, and FGF2 exert anabolic/catabolic effects on bone, while the osteokines osteocalcin and sclerostin have shown to induce muscle anabolism and catabolism, respectively. Adipokines, such as leptin, resistin, adiponectin, and TNFα (released from adipose tissue), can also modulate muscle and bone metabolism. Contrarily, exercise-mediated release of lipolytic myokines (IL6, irisin, and LIF) stimulates thermogenesis by promoting the browning of adipocytes.


Myokines, osteokines, and adipokines exert autocrine/paracrine effects locally as well as through the endocrine system, to regulate muscle, bone, and fat metabolism. Reductions in physical activity and increases in energy intake, both linked with aging, leads to adipocyte hypertrophy and the recruitment of immunological cells (macrophages). In turn, this releases pro-inflammatory adipokines which induces chronic low-grade inflammation (LGI), a key player in the pathology of several diseases. However, exercise-induced stimulation of bioactive cytokines, through muscle-bone-fat crosstalk, increases muscle anabolism, bone formation, mitochondrial biogenesis, glucose utilization, and fatty acid oxidation, and attenuates chronic LGI.

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The authors would like to thank the Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Science (AIMSS) and the Department of Medicine-Western Health, at the University of Melbourne, for supporting the authors of this review.

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Correspondence to Gustavo Duque.

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Kirk, B., Feehan, J., Lombardi, G. et al. Muscle, Bone, and Fat Crosstalk: the Biological Role of Myokines, Osteokines, and Adipokines. Curr Osteoporos Rep 18, 388–400 (2020).

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