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Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2013 Mar;9(3):144-52. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2012.258. Epub 2013 Jan 22.

The role of hepatokines in metabolism.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetology, Vascular Medicine, Nephrology and Clinical Chemistry, University Hospital of Tübingen, Otfried-Müller-Straße 10, 72076 Tübingen, Germany. norbert.stefan@


The liver is known to be involved in the natural history of the ongoing epidemics of type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. In particular, the liver has a role in increased glucose production and dysregulated lipoprotein metabolism, conditions that are often found in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Additionally, several proteins that are exclusively or predominantly secreted from the liver are now known to directly affect glucose and lipid metabolism. In analogy to the functional proteins released from adipose tissue and skeletal muscle-adipokines and myokines-these liver-derived proteins are known as hepatokines. The first hepatokine that has been proven to have a major pathogenetic role in metabolic diseases is α2-HS-glycoprotein (fetuin-A). Production of this glycoprotein is increased in steatotic and inflamed liver, but not in expanded and dysregulated adipose tissue. Thus, research into this molecule and other hepatokines is expected to aid in differentiating between the contribution of liver and those of skeletal muscle and adipose tissue, to the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease.

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