Fibroblast growth factor 21 is induced by endoplasmic reticulum stress

Frank G Schaap, Andreas E Kremer, Wouter H Lamers, Peter L M Jansen, Ingrid C Gaemers
Biochimie 2013, 95 (4): 692-9
Increased hepatic expression is held responsible for elevated serum levels of fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) but the underlying molecular mechanism is unclear. In the present study we tested the postulate that the metabolic hormone FGF21 is regulated by endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, a condition that is observed in a number of diseases including NAFLD and results in activation of an adaptive response known as the unfolded protein response (UPR). ER stress stimuli were found to induce expression of Fgf21 mRNA in H4IIE hepatoma cells and in isolated rat hepatocytes. Moreover, intraperitoneal injection of the ER stressor tunicamycin induced hepatic Fgf21 expression in mice and resulted in marked elevation of serum FGF21 levels. The effect of ER stress on FGF21 expression could be mimicked by overexpression of ATF4, a transcriptional effector of the PERK-branch of the UPR. In silico analysis revealed the presence of two binding sites for ATF4 in the FGF21 promoter region. Combined disruption of these elements, abrogated FGF21 promoter activity induced by ER stress or ATF4 overexpression. These findings implicate the PERK/eIF2alpha/ATF4 cascade in ER stress regulation of FGF21. A consequence of this notion is that other intracellular stress signaling pathways that converge at eIF2alpha, can regulate FGF21 expression. Indeed, both nutrient (amino acid deprivation) and oxidative stress (arsenite) were found to induce Fgf21 expression in hepatoma cells and isolated rat hepatocytes. In conclusion, FGF21 expression is regulated by ER stress and additional intracellular stress signaling pathways. Our findings suggest that increased cellular stress in fatty livers may underlie the elevated FGF21 levels observed in patients with NAFLD.


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