Recent advances and future avenues in understanding the role of adipose tissue cross talk in mediating skeletal muscle mass and function with ageing

Andrew Wilhelmsen, Kostas Tsintzas, Simon Jones

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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Sarcopenia, broadly defined as the age-related decline in skeletal muscle mass, quality, and function, is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation and an increased likelihood of adverse health outcomes. The regulation of skeletal muscle mass with ageing is complex and necessitates a delicate balance between muscle protein synthesis and degradation. The secretion and transfer of cytokines, long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) and microRNAs (miRNAs), both discretely and within extracellular vesicles, have emerged as important communication channels between tissues. Some of these factors have been implicated in regulating skeletal muscle mass, function, and pathologies and may be perturbed by excessive adiposity. Indeed, adipose tissue participates in a broad spectrum of inter-organ communication and obesity promotes the accumulation of macrophages, cellular senescence, and the production and secretion of pro-inflammatory factors. Pertinently, age-related sarcopenia has been reported to be more prevalent in obesity; however, such effects are confounded by comorbidities and physical activity level. In this review, we provide evidence that adiposity may exacerbate age-related sarcopenia and outline some emerging concepts of adipose-skeletal muscle communication including the secretion and processing of novel myokines and adipokines and the role of extracellular vesicles in mediating inter-tissue cross talk via lncRNAs and miRNAs in the context of sarcopenia, ageing, and obesity. Further research using advances in proteomics, transcriptomics, and techniques to investigate extracellular vesicles, with an emphasis on translational, longitudinal human studies, is required to better understand the physiological significance of these factors, the impact of obesity upon them, and their potential as therapeutic targets in combating muscle wasting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-110
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: PhD Studentship (AW) funded by the MRC Versus Arthritis Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research.


  • Adipose tissue
  • Ageing
  • Cellular senescence
  • Cross talk
  • Cytokines
  • Long non-coding RNAs
  • MicroRNAs
  • Obesity
  • Skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • veterinary (miscalleneous)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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