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Previous studies have shown that glucagon cooperatively interacts with insulin to stimulate hepatic FGF21 gene expression. Here we investigated the mechanism by which glucagon and insulin increased FGF21 gene transcription in primary hepatocyte cultures. Transfection analyses demonstrated that glucagon plus insulin induction of FGF21 transcription was conferred by two activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) binding sites in the FGF21 gene. Glucagon plus insulin stimulated a 5-fold increase in ATF4 protein abundance, and knockdown of ATF4 expression suppressed the ability of glucagon plus insulin to increase FGF21 expression. In hepatocytes incubated in the presence of insulin, treatment with a PKA-selective agonist mimicked the ability of glucagon to stimulate ATF4 and FGF21 expression. Inhibition of PKA, PI3K, Akt, and mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) suppressed the ability of glucagon plus insulin to stimulate ATF4 and FGF21 expression. Additional analyses demonstrated that chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) induced a 6-fold increase in ATF4 expression and that knockdown of ATF4 expression suppressed the ability of CDCA to increase FGF21 gene expression. CDCA increased the phosphorylation of eIF2α, and inhibition of eIF2α signaling activity suppressed CDCA regulation of ATF4 and FGF21 expression. These results demonstrate that glucagon plus insulin increases FGF21 transcription by stimulating ATF4 expression and that activation of cAMP/PKA and PI3K/Akt/mTORC1 mediates the effect of glucagon plus insulin on ATF4 expression. These results also demonstrate that CDCA regulation of FGF21 transcription is mediated at least partially by an eIF2α-dependent increase in ATF4 expression.

Source Citation

Alonge KM, Meares GP, Hillgartner FB. Glucagon and Insulin Cooperatively Stimulate Fibroblast Growth Factor 21 Gene Transcription by Increasing the Expression of Activating Transcription Factor 4. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2017;292(13):5239-5252. doi:10.1074/jbc.m116.762922