PerspectiveIn the Journals Plus

Novel neuropeptide may hold clues to obesity, diabetes risk

Show Citation

April 13, 2018

Zhao-xiang Bian
Zhao-xiang Bian

Levels of circulating spexin, a newly identified neuropeptide, decrease with age and may predict risk for obesity and diabetes, according to findings from a cross-sectional study of healthy Chinese women.

Research suggests that spexin is associated with satiety, gastrointestinal motility, energy metabolism, and glucose and lipid metabolism, Zhao-xiang Bian, MD, PhD, director of the Hong Kong Chinese Medicine Clinical Study Centre at Hong Kong Baptist University, China, and colleagues wrote in the study background. Several animal studies have investigated the biological functions of spexin in fish and rodents; however, the clinical significance of the neuropeptide remains largely unknown, they noted.

Bian and colleagues analyzed data from 68 women recruited from the clinical division at the School of Chinese Medicine at Hong Kong Baptist University (median age, 39 years; median BMI, 20.5 kg/m²). Researchers measured serum spexin levels via an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, as well as fasting glucose, total cholesterol, triglycerides, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), urea and creatinine. Researchers stratified participants by spexin tertiles and performed two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) to test the main and interaction effects of age and spexin on BMI, fasting glucose and triglycerides.

Within the cohort, median spexin concentration was 0.195 ng/mL. Median fasting glucose level was 4.5 mmol/L, median total cholesterol was 4.875 mmol/L and median triglyceride level was 0.75 mmol/L.

Researchers observed a positive correlation between age and BMI (r = 0.366; P = .003); however, there was a negative association between age and serum spexin concentration (r = –0.277; P = .022). Serum spexin was also negatively associated with BMI (r = –0.445; P < .001), fasting glucose (r = –0.302; P = .014) and triglycerides (r = –0.324; P = .008). There were no associations observed between serum spexin and total cholesterol, ALP, ALT, AST, urea and creatinine.

Researchers also found that spexin levels independently predict the risk of high BMI (P = .006) and high fasting glucose (P = .041). Researchers did not observe interaction effects of spexin and age on BMI and fasting glucose.

“In healthy women, circulating spexin levels decrease with age and negatively correlate with BMI, fasting glucose and triglycerides,” Bian told Endocrine Today. “Meanwhile, no interaction effects of spexin and age on BMI and fasting glucose were found. Spexin may independently predict the risk of high BMI and high fasting glucose.”

Bian said the close correlation between spexin and age suggests the possible role of the peptide in aging-related functions and disorders, which need to be further explored by additional clinical studies and mechanistic investigations to elucidate the role of spexin in aging.


by Regina Schaffer

For more information:

Zhao-xiang Bian, MD, PhD, can be reached at the Jockey Club School of Chinese Medicine, 7 Baptist University Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR, China; email:

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.



itj+ Infographic

itj+ Perspective

Seema Kumar

In this study by Lin and colleagues, circulating spexin levels were measured in 68 healthy adult women and were noted to decrease with age. Additionally, spexin levels were negatively correlated with BMI as well as fasting glucose and triglycerides. Though the study findings are thought provoking and of potential clinical relevance, the findings need to be interpreted cautiously given the cross-sectional nature of the study and small sample size.
My take way is that spexin may play a potential role in physiological changes associated with aging. Additionally, spexin may serve as a potential biomarker for obesity and metabolic syndrome. Data from prospective longitudinal studies in diverse and larger populations and additionally intervention studies showing change in levels of this novel biomarker would be helpful in further enhancing our understanding of the role of spexin in aging and health.

Seema Kumar, MD

Consultant, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology
Associate professor of pediatrics
Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

Disclosure: Kumar reports no relevant financial disclosures.