UMMS Affiliation

Program in Molecular Medicine; Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes; UMass Metabolic Network

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Biochemistry | Cell Biology | Cellular and Molecular Physiology | Molecular Biology


OBJECTIVE: Brown and white adipose tissue exerts pleiotropic effects on systemic energy metabolism in part by releasing endocrine factors. Neuregulin 4 (Nrg4) was recently identified as a brown fat-enriched secreted factor that ameliorates diet-induced metabolic disorders, including insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis. However, the physiological mechanisms through which Nrg4 regulates energy balance and glucose and lipid metabolism remain incompletely understood. The aims of the current study were: i) to investigate the regulation of adipose Nrg4 expression during obesity and the physiological signals involved, ii) to elucidate the mechanisms underlying Nrg4 regulation of energy balance and glucose and lipid metabolism, and iii) to explore whether Nrg4 regulates adipose tissue secretome gene expression and adipokine secretion.

METHODS: We examined the correlation of adipose Nrg4 expression with obesity in a cohort of diet-induced obese mice and investigated the upstream signals that regulate Nrg4 expression. We performed metabolic cage and hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp studies in Nrg4 transgenic mice to dissect the metabolic pathways regulated by Nrg4. We investigated how Nrg4 regulates hepatic lipid metabolism in the fasting state and explored the effects of Nrg4 on adipose tissue gene expression, particularly those encoding secreted factors.

RESULTS: Adipose Nrg4 expression is inversely correlated with adiposity and regulated by pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory signaling. Transgenic expression of Nrg4 increases energy expenditure and augments whole body glucose metabolism. Nrg4 protects mice from diet-induced hepatic steatosis in part through activation of hepatic fatty acid oxidation and ketogenesis. Finally, Nrg4 promotes a healthy adipokine profile during obesity.

CONCLUSIONS: Nrg4 exerts pleiotropic beneficial effects on energy balance and glucose and lipid metabolism to ameliorate obesity-associated metabolic disorders. Biologic therapeutics based on Nrg4 may improve both type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in patients.


adipose tissue, brown fat, Nrg4, adipokine, NAFLD, diabetes

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Copyright 2017 The Authors.

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Mol Metab. 2017 Jun 21;6(8):863-872. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2017.03.016. eCollection 2017 Aug. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Molecular metabolism

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.