Circulating concentrations of GDF11 are positively associated with TSH levels in humans
Growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF11) is a member of the transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta superfamily which declines with age and has been proposed as an anti-aging factor with regenerative effects in skeletal muscle in mice. However, recent data in humans and mice are conflicting, casting doubts about its true functional actions. The aim of the present study was to analyze the potential involvement of GFD11 in energy homeostasis in particular in relation with thyroid hormones. Serum concentrations of GDF11 were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in 287 subjects. A highly significant positive correlation was found between GDF11 and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) concentrations (r = 0.40, p < 0.001). Neither resting energy expenditure (REE) nor REE per unit of fat-free mass (REE/FFM) were significantly correlated (p > 0.05 for both) with GDF11 levels. In a multiple linear regression analysis, the model that best predicted logGDF11 included logTSH, leptin, body mass index (BMI), age, and C-reactive protein (logCRP). This model explained 37% of the total variability of logGDF11 concentrations (p < 0.001), with only logTSH being a significant predictor of logGDF11. After segregating subjects by TSH levels, those within the low TSH group exhibited significantly decreased (p < 0.05) GDF11 concentrations as compared to the normal TSH group or the high TSH group. A significant correlation of GDF11 levels with logCRP (r = 0.19, p = 0.025) was found. GDF11 levels were not related to the presence of hypertension or cardiopathy. In conclusion, our results show that circulating concentrations of GDF11 are closely associated with TSH concentrations and reduced in subjects with low TSH levels. However, GDF11 is not related to the regulation of energy expenditure. Our data also suggest that GDF11 may be involved in the regulation of inflammation, without relation to cardiac function. Further research is needed to elucidate the role of GDF11 in metabolism and its potential involvement in thyroid pathophysiology.