Nrf2 Represses FGF21 During Long-Term High-Fat Diet–Induced Obesity in Mice

  1. Ioannis G. Habeos1
  1. 1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Medical School, University of Patras, Patras, Greece
  2. 2Department of Biological Chemistry, Medical School, University of Athens, Athens, Greece
  3. 3Department of Pharmacology, Medical School, University of Patras, Patras, Greece
  1. Corresponding author: Ioannis G. Habeos, ihabeos{at}


OBJECTIVE Obesity is characterized by chronic oxidative stress. Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) has recently been identified as a novel hormone that regulates metabolism. NFE2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a transcription factor that orchestrates the expression of a battery of antioxidant and detoxification genes under both basal and stress conditions. The current study investigated the role of Nrf2 in a mouse model of long-term high-fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity and characterized its crosstalk to FGF21 in this process.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Wild-type (WT) and Nrf2 knockout (Nrf2-KO) mice were fed an HFD for 180 days. During this period, food consumption and body weights were measured. Glucose metabolism was assessed by an intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test and intraperitoneal insulin tolerance test. Total RNA was prepared from liver and adipose tissue and was used for quantitative real-time RT-PCR. Fasting plasma was collected and analyzed for blood chemistries. The ST-2 cell line was used for transfection studies.

RESULTS Nrf2-KO mice were partially protected from HFD-induced obesity and developed a less insulin-resistant phenotype. Importantly, Nrf2-KO mice had higher plasma FGF21 levels and higher FGF21 mRNA levels in liver and white adipose tissue than WT mice. Thus, the altered metabolic phenotype of Nrf2-KO mice under HFD was associated with higher expression and abundance of FGF21. Consistently, the overexpression of Nrf2 in ST-2 cells resulted in decreased FGF21 mRNA levels as well as in suppressed activity of a FGF21 promoter luciferase reporter.

CONCLUSIONS The identification of Nrf2 as a novel regulator of FGF21 expands our understanding of the crosstalk between metabolism and stress defense.


  • Received January 26, 2011.
  • Accepted July 19, 2011.

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