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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e38438. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038438. Epub 2012 May 31.

Fundamentals of FGF19 & FGF21 action in vitro and in vivo.

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Lilly Research Laboratories, Lilly Corporate Center, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States of America.


Fibroblast growth factors 19 (FGF19) and 21 (FGF21) have emerged as key regulators of energy metabolism. Several studies have been conducted to understand the mechanism of FGF19 and FGF21 action, however, the data presented has often been inconsistent and at times contradictory. Here in a single study we compare the mechanisms mediating FGF19/FGF21 actions, and how similarities/differences in actions at the cellular level between these two factors translate to common/divergent physiological outputs. Firstly, we show that in cell culture FGF19/FGF21 are very similar, however, key differences are still observed differentiating the two. In vitro we found that both FGF's activate FGFRs in the context of βKlotho (KLB) expression. Furthermore, both factors alter ERK phosphorylation and glucose uptake with comparable potency. Combination treatment of cells with both factors did not have additive effects and treatment with a competitive inhibitor, the FGF21 delta N17 mutant, also blocked FGF19's effects, suggestive of a shared receptor activation mechanism. The key differences between FGF21/FGF19 were noted at the receptor interaction level, specifically the unique ability of FGF19 to bind/signal directly via FGFR4. To determine if differential effects on energy homeostasis and hepatic mitogenicity exist we treated DIO and ob/ob mice with FGF19/FGF21. We find comparable efficacy of the two proteins to correct body weight and serum glucose in both DIO and ob/ob mice. Nevertheless, FGF21 and FGF19 had distinctly different effects on proliferation in the liver. Interestingly, in vivo blockade of FGF21 signaling in mice using ΔN17 caused profound changes in glycemia indicative of the critical role KLB and FGF21 play in the regulation of glucose homeostasis. Overall, our data demonstrate that while subtle differences exist in vitro the metabolic effects in vivo of FGF19/FGF21 are indistinguishable, supporting a shared mechanism of action for these two hormones in the regulation of energy balance.

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