The liver regulates energy partitioning and use in a sex-dependent manner, coupling hepatic substrate availability to female reproductive status. Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is a hepatokine produced in response to metabolic stress that adaptively directs systemic metabolism and substrate use to reduce hepatic lipid storage. Here we report that FGF21 altered hepatic transcriptional and metabolic responses, and reduced liver triglycerides, in a sex-dependent manner. FGF21 decreased hepatic triglycerides in obese male mice in a weight loss–independent manner; this was abrogated among female littermates. The effect of FGF21 on hepatosteatosis is thought to derive, in part, from increased adiponectin secretion. Accordingly, plasma adiponectin and its upstream adrenergic receptor → cAMP → exchange protein directly activated by cAMP signaling pathway was stimulated by FGF21 in males and inhibited in females. Both ovariectomized and reproductively senescent old females responded to FGF21 treatment by decreasing body weight, but liver triglycerides and adiponectin remained unchanged. Thus, the benefit of FGF21 treatment for improving hepatosteatosis depends on sex but not on a functional female reproductive system. Because FGF21 provides a downstream mechanism contributing to several metabolic interventions, and given its direct clinical importance, these findings may have broad implications for the targeted application of nutritional and pharmacological treatments for metabolic disease.


Aki T. Chaffin, Karlton R. Larson, Kuei-Pin Huang, Chih-Ting Wu, Nadejda Godoroja, Yanbin Fang, Devi Jayakrishnan, Karla A. Soto Sauza, Landon C. Sims, Niloufar Mohajerani, Michael L. Goodson, Karen K. Ryan


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