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PeerJ. 2017 Aug 14;5:e3669. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3669. eCollection 2017.

Exercise training with dietary restriction enhances circulating irisin level associated with increasing endothelial progenitor cell number in obese adults: an intervention study.

Huang J1, Wang S1,2,3, Xu F1, Wang D1,2, Yin H1,3, Lai Q1,2, Liao J1, Hou X2, Hu M1.

Author information

Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Sports and Health Promotion, Scientific Research Center, Guangzhou Sport University, Guangzhou, China.
Department of Sports and Health, Guangzhou Sport University, Guangzhou, China.
School of Kinesiology, Shanghai University of Sport, Shanghai, China.



Circulating endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) correlate negatively with obesity. Previous studies have shown that exercise significantly restores circulating EPC levels in obese people; however, the underlying mechanisms have not been elucidated. Recently, irisin has been reported to have a critical role in the regulation of EPCs. This exercise-induced myokine has been demonstrated to play a therapeutic role in obesity. In this study, we hypothesized that the increase in circulating irisin may form a link with increasing EPC levels in obese people after exercise.


Seventeen obese adults completed an 8-week program of combined exercise and dietary intervention. Clinical characteristics, blood biochemistry, and circulating irisin levels of subjects were measured before and after eight weeks of training. EPC levels were evaluated via flow cytometry, and EPC migratory and adhesive functions were also determined.


Circulating irisin levels significantly increased following the 8-week training program (P < 0.05). We furthermore observed an improvement in EPC numbers (P < 0.05), and EPC migratory and adhesive functions (P < 0.001 and P < 0.05, respectively) after the intervention. Additionally, we detected a positive correlation between changes in irisin and changes in EPC number (r = 0.52, P < 0.05).


For the first time, a positive correlation between increasing irisin levels and increasing EPC levels has been reported after an 8-week program, consisting of exercise and dietary intervention. This result suggests a novel effect of irisin on the regulation of EPC mobilization, which might contribute to improvement of endothelial function in obese people.


Diet; Endothelial function; Endothelial progenitor cells; Exercise; Irisin; Obesity

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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