Neuronal innervation regulates the secretion of neurotrophic myokines and exosomes from skeletal muscle

Kai-Yu Huang, Gaurav Upadhyay, Yujin Ahn, Masayoshoi Sakakura, Gelson J. Pagan-Diaz, Younghak Cho, Amanda C. Weiss, Chen Huang, Jennifer W. Mitchell, Jiahui Li, Yanqi Tan, Yu-Heng Deng, Austin Ellis-Mohr, Zhi Dou, Xiaotain Zhang, Sehong Kang, Qian Chen, Jonathan V. Sweedler, Sung Gap Im, Rashid BashirHee Jung Chung, Gabriel Popescu, Martha U. Gillette, Mattia Gazzola, Hyunjoon Kong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Myokines and exosomes, originating from skeletal muscle, are shown to play a significant role in maintaining brain homeostasis. While exercise has been reported to promote muscle secretion, little is known about the effects of neuronal innervation and activity on the yield and molecular composition of biologically active molecules from muscle. As neuromuscular diseases and disabilities associated with denervation impact muscle metabolism, we hypothesize that neuronal innervation and firing may play a pivotal role in regulating secretion activities of skeletal muscles. We examined this hypothesis using an engineered neuromuscular tissue model consisting of skeletal muscles innervated by motor neurons. The innervated muscles displayed elevated expression of mRNAs encoding neurotrophic myokines, such as interleukin-6, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and FDNC5, as well as the mRNA of peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator 1α, a key regulator of muscle metabolism. Upon glutamate stimulation, the innervated muscles secreted higher levels of irisin and exosomes containing more diverse neurotrophic microRNAs than neuron-free muscles. Consequently, biological factors secreted by innervated muscles enhanced branching, axonal transport, and, ultimately, spontaneous network activities of primary hippocampal neurons in vitro. Overall, these results reveal the importance of neuronal innervation in modulating muscle-derived factors that promote neuronal function and suggest that the engineered neuromuscular tissue model holds significant promise as a platform for producing neurotrophic molecules.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2313590121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 7 2024


  • neuromuscular junction
  • innervation
  • skeletal muscle
  • exosome
  • myokine


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