Neuregulins (NRGs) are emerging as an important family of signaling ligands that regulate glucose and lipid homeostasis. NRG1 lowers blood glucose levels in obese mice, whereas the brown fat–enriched secreted factor NRG4 protects mice from high-fat diet–induced insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis. However, the therapeutic potential of NRGs remains elusive, given the poor plasma half-life of the native ligands. Here, we engineered a fusion protein using human NRG1 and the Fc domain of human IgG1 (NRG1-Fc) that exhibited extended half-life in circulation and improved potency in receptor signaling. We evaluated its efficacy in improving metabolic parameters and dissected the mechanisms of action. NRG1-Fc treatment triggered potent AKT activation in the liver, lowered blood glucose, improved insulin sensitivity, and suppressed food intake in obese mice. NRG1-Fc acted as a potent secretagogue for the metabolic hormone FGF21; however, the latter was largely dispensable for its metabolic effects. NRG1-Fc directly targeted the hypothalamic POMC neurons to promote membrane depolarization and increase firing rate. Together, NRG1-Fc exhibits improved pharmacokinetic properties and exerts metabolic benefits through dual inhibition of hepatic gluconeogenesis and caloric intake.
Peng Zhang, Henry Kuang, Yanlin He, Sharon O. Idiga, Siming Li, Zhimin Chen, Zhao Yang, Xing Cai, Kezhong Zhang, Matthew J. Potthoff, Yong Xu, Jiandie D. Lin