Aims/hypothesis Recently, the novel myokine irisin was described to drive adipose tissue ‘browning’, to increase energy expenditure, and to improve obesity and insulin resistance in high fat-fed mice. Here, we assessed whether common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the FNDC5 locus, encoding the irisin precursor, contribute to human prediabetic phenotypes (overweight, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, impaired insulin release). Methods A population of 1,976 individuals was characterized by oral glucose tolerance tests and genotyped for FNDC5 tagging SNPs. Subgroups underwent hyperinsulinaemic-euglycaemic clamps, magnetic resonance imaging/spectroscopy, and intravenous glucose tolerance tests. From 37 young and 14 elderly participants recruited in two different centres, muscle biopsies were obtained for the preparation of human myotube cultures. Results After appropriate adjustment and Bonferroni correction for the number of tested variants, SNPs rs16835198 and rs726344 were associated with in vivo measures of insulin sensitivity. Via interrogation of publicly available data from the Meta-Analyses of Glucose and Insulin-related traits Consortium, rs726344’s effect on insulin sensitivity was replicated. Moreover, novel data from human myotubes revealed a negative association between FNDC5 expression and appropriately adjusted in vivo measures of insulin sensitivity in young donors. This finding was replicated in myotubes from elderly men.