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J Biol Chem. 2011 Oct 7;286(40):34533-41. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.248591. Epub 2011 Aug 16.

Fibroblast growth factor 21 induces glucose transporter-1 expression through activation of the serum response factor/Ets-like protein-1 in adipocytes.

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Department of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.


Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is a liver-secreted endocrine factor with multiple beneficial effects on obesity-related disorders. It enhances glucose uptake by inducing the expression of glucose transporter-1 (GLUT1) in adipocytes. Here we investigated the signaling pathways that mediate FGF21-induced GLUT1 expression and glucose uptake in vitro and in animals. Quantitative real-time PCR and a luciferase reporter assay showed that FGF21 induced GLUT1 expression through transcriptional activation. The truncation of the GLUT1 promoter from -3145 to -3105 bp, which contains two highly conserved serum response element (SRE) and E-Twenty Six (ETS) binding motif, dramatically decreased FGF21-induced promoter activity of the GLUT1 gene. A chromatin immunoprecipitation assay demonstrated that the transcription factors serum response factor (SRF) and Ets-like protein-1 (Elk-1) were recruited to the GLUT1 promoter upon FGF21 stimulation. The siRNA-mediated knockdown of either SRF or Elk-1 resulted in a marked attenuation in FGF21-induced GLUT1 expression and glucose uptake in adipocytes. In C57 lean mice, a single intravenous injection of FGF21 induced phosphorylation of Elk-1 at Ser(383) and SRF at Ser(103) and also led to the recruitment of Elk-1 and SRF to the GLUT1 promoter in epididymal fats. By contrast, such effects of in vivo FGF21 administration were blunted in high fat diet-induced obese mice. In conclusion, FGF21 induces GLUT1 expression and glucose uptake through sequential activation of ERK1/2 and SRF/Elk-1, which in turn triggers the transcriptional activation of GLUT1 in adipocytes. The impairment in this signaling pathway may contribute to FGF21 resistance in obese mice.

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