Newly Discovered Protein Impacts Exercise Performance in the Cold

Researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School and Wayne State University School of Medicine have identified a protein called Iditarod that affects exercise performance, autophagy, and cold resistance. Iditarod is a homolog of the mammalian protein FNDC5, which is known as a precursor of the exercise-induced protein irisin. The team discovered Iditarod while studying metabolism and the effects of stress on the body. They found that the protein acts as a regulator of autophagy, exercise performance, and cold resistance.

Autophagy is a process in which damaged parts of cells are removed from the body. The researchers found that Iditarod plays a role in regulating this process. By manipulating the genetic makeup of fruit flies, the researchers demonstrated the link between autophagy and Iditarod. Flies with an overactivation of autophagy had visible degeneration of the eyes, while inactivating the Iditarod gene restored the normal eye structure.

When the researchers searched for a similar gene in humans, they found FNDC5, which is a precursor to irisin. Irisin is important for exercise-dependent regulation of whole-body metabolism and has multiple benefits, including improvements in cognitive function and bone strengthening. The researchers also found that irisin is important for cold adaptation.

Flies bred without the Iditarod gene had impaired exercise endurance and were unable to tolerate cold temperatures. The researchers concluded that the Iditarod/Irisin/FNDC5 family of proteins has ancient roles in autophagy, exercise physiology, and cold adaptation. They believe that exercise helps clean the cellular environment through autophagy, and the Iditarod gene plays a crucial role in this process.

Further studies are warranted to explore the mechanisms of how Iditarod and autophagy are coordinated during exercise training for stress resistance and endurance. This research provides insights into the conserved functions and mechanisms of these proteins across different animal species.

Source: University of Michigan Medical School, Wayne State University School of Medicine (no URLs provided)