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Cell. 2012 Dec 21;151(7):1595-607. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.10.053.

Diabetes risk gene and Wnt effector Tcf7l2/TCF4 controls hepatic response to perinatal and adult metabolic demand.

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Hubrecht Institute, KNAW and University Medical Center Utrecht, 3584CT Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Most studies on TCF7L2 SNP variants in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes (T2D) focus on a role of the encoded transcription factor TCF4 in β cells. Here, a mouse genetics approach shows that removal of TCF4 from β cells does not affect their function, whereas manipulating TCF4 levels in the liver has major effects on metabolism. In Tcf7l2(-/-) mice, the immediate postnatal surge in liver metabolism does not occur. Consequently, pups die due to hypoglycemia. By combining chromatin immunoprecipitation with gene expression profiling, we identify a TCF4-controlled metabolic gene program that is acutely activated in the postnatal liver. In concordance, adult liver-specific Tcf7l2 knockout mice show reduced hepatic glucose production during fasting and display improved glucose homeostasis when maintained on high-fat diet. Furthermore, liver-specific TCF4 overexpression increases hepatic glucose production. These observations imply that TCF4 directly activates metabolic genes and that inhibition of Wnt signaling may be beneficial in metabolic disease.

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