Quick Navigation


A stop lever on muscle protein synthesis with no other known roles in the body, abolishing Myostatin in the body results in excessive muscle growth and a reduction of fat mass; the 'holy grail' of bodybuilding due to its potency, supplements targeting Myostatin are lacklustre.

Our evidence-based analysis on myostatin features 66 unique references to scientific papers.

Research analysis led by and reviewed by the Examine team.
Last Updated:

Research Breakdown on Myostatin

1Interactions with Skeletal Muscle Mass

According to many researchers, Myostatin is the most potent negative regulator of skeletal muscle mass known to date.[1][2][3] It is expressed almost exclusively in muscle tissue (with some in cardiac tissue).[4] Myostatin has also been found in skin cells.[5] Myostatin can be reduced via various means:

  • Genetic knock-out (taking out or suppressing the gene that codes for Myostatin)

  • Genetic upregulation of antagonists (increasing the activity of a gene that inhibits myostatin activity)

  • Administration of antagonists to a subject

The end result is that when Myostatin is inable to act on its Activin-II receptor, muscle mass is drastically enhanced.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

The myostatin protein's structure is highly preserved (similar) among species[14], and similar effects of myostatin suppression have been observed in sheep,[15] cattle,[16][17] dogs,[18] fish,[19] primates[20] and there has been a case study of a healthy human with myostatin mutation.[21] It is likely that animal models will apply to humans in a similar manner.

2Interactions with Body Fat

In animal models of Myostatin deficiency, less amounts of body fat are routinely observed alongside the increased muscle mass.

This is due indirectly due to the process of building muscle mass being highly endothermic, and requiring energy to be conducted. Myostatin's effects on muscle tissue are what indirectly causes depletion of fat cells through providing energy for protein synthesis.[22][2]

Myostatin deficiency seems to be related to an increased production of brown fat in mouse models, although there may be some species related differences in regards to humans.[23]

3Interactions with Glucose Metabolism

Myostatin seems to be able to increase the activity of AMPK, which increase glucose consumption in muscle cells.[24] However, in vivo studies show reduced insulin resistance in periods of Myostatin deficiency. Some implicate AMPK activity upregulated in this scenario as well[25] while other studies suggest that increased energy consumption by muscle tissue, thus depriving fat tissue of anabolism, is the cause for increased insulin sensitivity.[26][27][25] This is shown by myostatin deficiency in muscle, but not fat, resulting in increased insulin sensitivity in mice.[22]

A cause-effect relationship was suggested with a high correlation between reduced myostatin (from aerobic exercise) causing a dose-dependent decrease in insulin resistance, and inducing insulin resistance with myostatin injections.[28]

In addition to increased glucose sensitivity, increased muscular consumption of energy appears to be protective from atherosclerosis.[29]

4Inhibiting Myostatin

Myostatin can be inhibited from being produced, can be bound to and sequestered in the blood before it acts on the Activin-II receptor, or the post-receptor cascade can be inhibited. Various methods are available to inhibit myostatin's effects on the cell nucleus, although many are pharmaceutical in nature and not available to the public.

4.1Myostatin Propeptide

Myostatin propeptide is a part of the originally synthesized chain of myostatin that the active component must disassociated with in order to function. In effect, Myostatin Propeptide is one method that can regulate active Myostatin in serum.[30]

Overexpression of Myostatin Propeptide in animals tends to result in increased muscle mass and the other various effects noted in preceding sections.[29][31][32][33][34] Other studies suggest that it carries many of the same benefits seen in Myostatin deficiency, such as enhanced injury recovery rates,[35] It is possible to inject a mutant pro-peptide gene that provides long-term myostatin suppression.[36]

4.2Follistatin and related peptides

Follistatin is a naturally occurring and produced hepatokine (cytokine produced mostly in the liver, although it is produced in limited amounts in many cells) that can bind to and inactivate myostatin in serum. Either manipulating genetic expression of follistatin production or otherwise injecting follistatin appears to produce the same effects as myostatin deficiency.[7]

Follistatin also has the ability to bind to other serum factors, one of which is Activin. Since activin also partially inhibits protein synthesis, suppressing both myostatin and activin can result in further increased muscle growth.[37][38] This is shown in one study where follistatin administration to myostatin deficienct mice resulted in even further muscle growth.[39]

However, activins also mediate the growth and proliferation of other cells rather than just skeletal muscle.[40] Due to this reason, a myostatin-specific peptide has been derived from follistatin and dubbed 'Follistatin Derived Peptide II', and shows promise in inhibiting myostatin without influencing other serum factors.[41][8]


Decorin is a relatively small protein composed of dermatin/chondroitin sulfate chain. It is able to modulate myostatin's effects on muscle by binding to it in serum.[42][43][44][45] In the lifecycle, decorin and myostatin seem to be highly correlated in their expression.[46]

Decorin also seems to be able to upregulate levels of follistatin.[43]


A Myostatin 'vaccination' has been developed in culture from yeast, where oral and intravenous administration to mice appears to create Myostatin-specific antibodies and enhance muscular phenotype as a result.[6]

4.5Possible side-effects of inhibiting Myostatin

Myostatin's effects on negative regulation (and thus acceleration of protein synthesis when inhibited) are localized to skeletal muscle and cardiac tissue.[47] However, in an animal model looking at cardiac growth in aging mice, it was not observed despite beneficial metabolic effects of Myostatin being noted.[48]

As myostatin is located in the skin, myostatin null mice seem to have a rise in the protein Decorin, which delays skin healing via suppressing TGF-b proteins.[5]

5Myostatin and Lifestyle


Acute resistance exercise seems to, on average, decrease myostatin content in serum.[49][50][51] Training adaptations over time increase myostatin mRNA and protein content on average.[52] One study did note a decrease in Myostatin,[53] but it was mentioned it may be due to how they analyzed myostatin content.[54] The increase in myostatin over time appears to be a by-product of enhanced ribosomal density, and increased protein synthesis capabilities in total (as myostatin is a protein).

In mice, periods of unloading do not seem to increase myostatin although stressing a muscle with mechanical loading after time off causes a decrease in myostatin.[55] These results may be due to starting the study with deloading, as human studies suggest that deloading after training causes an increase in Myostatin.[56] Similar unloading protocols in humans see the same rise in Myostatin levels[57] and can rise in as short as three days.[58]

Aerboic exercise has also been implicated in reducing myostatin content in serum.[28]

A study in mice suggest that myostatin inhibition alone has no effect on increasing strength while it increases muscle mass, but inhibiting NF-kB alongside myostatin inhibition alleviates this.[59]

Even in consideration to all the above, exercise-mediated changes in myostatin do not appear to be related to actual muscle growth.[53] Myogenic factors that myostatin suppresses are related,[60] but not myostatin per se.


Treatment of myotubes with Vitamin D seems to suppress myostatin levels, possibly through an increase in follistatin.[61]


In animals, there is a known phenomena where cold exposure increases skeletal weight in finches,[62] ducks,[63] chicks,[64] and chickadees.[65]

At least one study (in chicks) using cold exposure at 4°C (relative to 30°C control conditions) for 24 hours reported a reduction in myostatin mRNA, although prolonged exposure for eight days was not associated with any alterations in myostatin mRNA content.[64]

Cold exposure has been linked to increasing myostatin, but oddly all relevant research is conducted in birds. Application of this information towards mammalian species is not known and preliminary


In mice, Myostatin appears to slowly rise after youth but then plateau.[55] This increase may be implicated in losing an ability to gain muscle mass as easily after youth, but does not appear to significantly influence sarcopenia.

In humans, this increased amount of myostatin in aged individuals is met with greater suppression of myostatin from exericse.[66]


  1. ^ Hiroki E, et al. A comparative study of myostatin, follistatin and decorin expression in muscle of different origin. Anat Sci Int. (2011)
  2. ^ a b Lebrasseur NK. Building muscle, browning fat and preventing obesity by inhibiting myostatin. Diabetologia. (2012)
  3. ^ Abe S, et al. Expression of myostatin and follistatin in Mdx mice, an animal model for muscular dystrophy. Zoolog Sci. (2009)
  4. ^ Sharma M, et al. Myostatin, a transforming growth factor-beta superfamily member, is expressed in heart muscle and is upregulated in cardiomyocytes after infarct. J Cell Physiol. (1999)
  5. ^ a b Zhang C, et al. Myostatin-Null Mice Exhibit Delayed Skin Wound Healing through The Blockade of Transforming Growth Factor-β Signaling by Decorin. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. (2012)
  6. ^ a b Zhang T, et al. Oral administration of myostatin-specific whole recombinant yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae vaccine increases body weight and muscle composition in mice. Vaccine. (2011)
  7. ^ a b Zhu J, et al. Follistatin improves skeletal muscle healing after injury and disease through an interaction with muscle regeneration, angiogenesis, and fibrosis. Am J Pathol. (2011)
  8. ^ a b Nakatani M, et al. Follistatin-derived peptide expression in muscle decreases adipose tissue mass and prevents hepatic steatosis. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2011)
  9. ^ Kang JK, et al. Antisense-induced myostatin exon skipping leads to muscle hypertrophy in mice following octa-guanidine morpholino oligomer treatment. Mol Ther. (2011)
  10. ^ Fakhfakh R, Michaud A, Tremblay JP. Blocking the myostatin signal with a dominant negative receptor improves the success of human myoblast transplantation in dystrophic mice. Mol Ther. (2011)
  11. ^ Chelh I, et al. Molecular profiles of Quadriceps muscle in myostatin-null mice reveal PI3K and apoptotic pathways as myostatin targets. BMC Genomics. (2009)
  12. ^ Baligand C, et al. Functional assessment of skeletal muscle in intact mice lacking myostatin by concurrent NMR imaging and spectroscopy. Gene Ther. (2010)
  13. ^ Welle S, Bhatt K, Pinkert CA. Myofibrillar protein synthesis in myostatin-deficient mice. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2006)
  14. ^ Double muscling in cattle due to mutations in the myostatin gene.
  15. ^ Clop A, et al. A mutation creating a potential illegitimate microRNA target site in the myostatin gene affects muscularity in sheep. Nat Genet. (2006)
  16. ^ Grobet L, et al. Molecular definition of an allelic series of mutations disrupting the myostatin function and causing double-muscling in cattle. Mamm Genome. (1998)
  17. ^ Grobet L, et al. A deletion in the bovine myostatin gene causes the double-muscled phenotype in cattle. Nat Genet. (1997)
  18. ^ Mosher DS, et al. A mutation in the myostatin gene increases muscle mass and enhances racing performance in heterozygote dogs. PLoS Genet. (2007)
  19. ^ Chisada S, et al. Myostatin-deficient medaka exhibit a double-muscling phenotype with hyperplasia and hypertrophy, which occur sequentially during post-hatch development. Dev Biol. (2011)
  20. ^ Follistatin Gene Delivery Enhances Muscle Growth and Strength in Nonhuman Primates.
  21. ^ Schuelke M, et al. Myostatin mutation associated with gross muscle hypertrophy in a child. N Engl J Med. (2004)
  22. ^ a b Guo T, et al. Myostatin inhibition in muscle, but not adipose tissue, decreases fat mass and improves insulin sensitivity. PLoS One. (2009)
  23. ^ Zhang C, et al. Inhibition of myostatin protects against diet-induced obesity by enhancing fatty acid oxidation and promoting a brown adipose phenotype in mice. Diabetologia. (2012)
  24. ^ Chen Y, et al. Myostatin regulates glucose metabolism via the AMP-activated protein kinase pathway in skeletal muscle cells. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. (2010)
  25. ^ a b Zhang C, et al. Myostatin-deficient mice exhibit reduced insulin resistance through activating the AMP-activated protein kinase signalling pathway. Diabetologia. (2011)
  26. ^ Wilkes JJ, Lloyd DJ, Gekakis N. Loss-of-function mutation in myostatin reduces tumor necrosis factor alpha production and protects liver against obesity-induced insulin resistance. Diabetes. (2009)
  27. ^ Huang Z, Chen X, Chen D. Myostatin: a novel insight into its role in metabolism, signal pathways, and expression regulation. Cell Signal. (2011)
  28. ^ a b Hittel DS, et al. Myostatin decreases with aerobic exercise and associates with insulin resistance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (2010)
  29. ^ a b Tu P, et al. Genetic disruption of myostatin reduces the development of proatherogenic dyslipidemia and atherogenic lesions in Ldlr null mice. Diabetes. (2009)
  30. ^ Hill JJ, et al. The myostatin propeptide and the follistatin-related gene are inhibitory binding proteins of myostatin in normal serum. J Biol Chem. (2002)
  31. ^ Zhao B, Wall RJ, Yang J. Transgenic expression of myostatin propeptide prevents diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. (2005)
  32. ^ Li Z, et al. Administration of a mutated myostatin propeptide to neonatal mice significantly enhances skeletal muscle growth. Mol Reprod Dev. (2010)
  33. ^ Matsakas A, et al. Molecular, cellular and physiological investigation of myostatin propeptide-mediated muscle growth in adult mice. Neuromuscul Disord. (2009)
  34. ^ Yang J, Zhao B. Postnatal expression of myostatin propeptide cDNA maintained high muscle growth and normal adipose tissue mass in transgenic mice fed a high-fat diet. Mol Reprod Dev. (2006)
  35. ^ Hamrick MW, et al. Recombinant myostatin (GDF-8) propeptide enhances the repair and regeneration of both muscle and bone in a model of deep penetrant musculoskeletal injury. J Trauma. (2010)
  36. ^ Hu S, et al. Enhanced muscle growth by plasmid-mediated delivery of myostatin propeptide. J Biomed Biotechnol. (2010)
  37. ^ Lee SJ, et al. Regulation of muscle mass by follistatin and activins. Mol Endocrinol. (2010)
  38. ^ Gilson H, et al. Follistatin induces muscle hypertrophy through satellite cell proliferation and inhibition of both myostatin and activin. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2009)
  39. ^ Lee SJ. Quadrupling muscle mass in mice by targeting TGF-beta signaling pathways. PLoS One. (2007)
  40. ^ Nakatani M, et al. Transgenic expression of a myostatin inhibitor derived from follistatin increases skeletal muscle mass and ameliorates dystrophic pathology in mdx mice. FASEB J. (2008)
  41. ^ Tsuchida K. Myostatin inhibition by a follistatin-derived peptide ameliorates the pathophysiology of muscular dystrophy model mice. Acta Myol. (2008)
  42. ^ Miura T, et al. Decorin binds myostatin and modulates its activity to muscle cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. (2006)
  43. ^ a b Zhu J, et al. Relationships between transforming growth factor-beta1, myostatin, and decorin: implications for skeletal muscle fibrosis. J Biol Chem. (2007)
  44. ^ Li Y, et al. Decorin gene transfer promotes muscle cell differentiation and muscle regeneration. Mol Ther. (2007)
  45. ^ Kishioka Y, et al. Decorin enhances the proliferation and differentiation of myogenic cells through suppressing myostatin activity. J Cell Physiol. (2008)
  46. ^ Nishimura T, et al. Spatiotemporal expression of decorin and myostatin during rat skeletal muscle development. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. (2007)
  47. ^ Morissette MR, et al. Myostatin regulates cardiomyocyte growth through modulation of Akt signaling. Circ Res. (2006)
  48. ^ Morissette MR, et al. Effects of myostatin deletion in aging mice. Aging Cell. (2009)
  49. ^ Kim JS, Cross JM, Bamman MM. Impact of resistance loading on myostatin expression and cell cycle regulation in young and older men and women. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2005)
  50. ^ Walker KS, et al. Resistance training alters plasma myostatin but not IGF-1 in healthy men. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (2004)
  51. ^ Hulmi JJ, et al. Resistance exercise with whey protein ingestion affects mTOR signaling pathway and myostatin in men. J Appl Physiol. (2009)
  52. ^ Willoughby DS. Effects of heavy resistance training on myostatin mRNA and protein expression. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (2004)
  53. ^ a b Kim JS, et al. Load-mediated downregulation of myostatin mRNA is not sufficient to promote myofiber hypertrophy in humans: a cluster analysis. J Appl Physiol. (2007)
  54. ^ Heinemeier KM. Using ribosomal RNA as a reference in mRNA quantification. J Appl Physiol. (2007)
  55. ^ a b Kawada S, Tachi C, Ishii N. Content and localization of myostatin in mouse skeletal muscles during aging, mechanical unloading and reloading. J Muscle Res Cell Motil. (2001)
  56. ^ Jespersen JG, et al. Myostatin expression during human muscle hypertrophy and subsequent atrophy: increased myostatin with detraining. Scand J Med Sci Sports. (2011)
  57. ^ Sakuma K, et al. The adaptive responses in several mediators linked with hypertrophy and atrophy of skeletal muscle after lower limb unloading in humans. Acta Physiol (Oxf). (2009)
  58. ^ Gustafsson T, et al. Effects of 3 days unloading on molecular regulators of muscle size in humans. J Appl Physiol. (2010)
  59. ^ George Carlson C, et al. Soluble activin receptor type IIB increases forward pulling tension in the mdx mouse. Muscle Nerve. (2011)
  60. ^ Bamman MM, et al. Cluster analysis tests the importance of myogenic gene expression during myofiber hypertrophy in humans. J Appl Physiol. (2007)
  61. ^ Garcia LA, et al. 1,25(OH)2vitamin D3 stimulates myogenic differentiation by inhibiting cell proliferation and modulating the expression of promyogenic growth factors and myostatin in C2C12 skeletal muscle cells. Endocrinology. (2011)
  62. ^ Metabolic characteristics and body composition in house finches: effects of seasonal acclimatization.
  63. ^ Barre H, et al. Potentiated muscular thermogenesis in cold-acclimated muscovy duckling. Am J Physiol. (1985)
  64. ^ a b Ijiri D, Kanai Y, Hirabayashi M. Possible roles of myostatin and PGC-1alpha in the increase of skeletal muscle and transformation of fiber type in cold-exposed chicks: expression of myostatin and PGC-1alpha in chicks exposed to cold. Domest Anim Endocrinol. (2009)
  65. ^ Cooper SJ. Seasonal metabolic acclimatization in mountain chickadees and juniper titmice. Physiol Biochem Zool. (2002)
  66. ^ Dalbo VJ, et al. Acute loading and aging effects on myostatin pathway biomarkers in human skeletal muscle after three sequential bouts of resistance exercise. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. (2011)