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Hepatology. 2014 Sep;60(3):977-89. doi: 10.1002/hep.27060. Epub 2014 Jul 25.

Fibroblast growth factor 21 protects against acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity by potentiating peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor coactivator protein-1α-mediated antioxidant capacity in mice.

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State Key Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China; Department of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China; Department of Pharmacology & Pharmacy, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.


Acetaminophen (APAP) overdose is a leading cause of drug-induced hepatotoxicity and acute liver failure worldwide, but its pathophysiology remains incompletely understood. Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is a hepatocyte-secreted hormone with pleiotropic effects on glucose and lipid metabolism. This study aimed to investigate the pathophysiological role of FGF21 in APAP-induced hepatotoxicity in mice. In response to APAP overdose, both hepatic expression and circulating levels of FGF21 in mice were dramatically increased as early as 3 hours, prior to elevations of the liver injury markers alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). APAP overdose-induced liver damage and mortality in FGF21 knockout (KO) mice were markedly aggravated, which was accompanied by increased oxidative stress and impaired antioxidant capacities as compared to wild-type (WT) littermates. By contrast, replenishment of recombinant FGF21 largely reversed APAP-induced hepatic oxidative stress and liver injury in FGF21 KO mice. Mechanistically, FGF21 induced hepatic expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor coactivator protein-1α (PGC-1α), thereby increasing the nuclear abundance of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) and subsequent up-regulation of several antioxidant genes. The beneficial effects of recombinant FGF21 on up-regulation of Nrf2 and antioxidant genes and alleviation of APAP-induced oxidative stress and liver injury were largely abolished by adenovirus-mediated knockdown of hepatic PGC-1α expression, whereas overexpression of PGC-1α was sufficient to counteract the increased susceptibility of FGF21 KO mice to APAP-induced hepatotoxicity.


The marked elevation of FGF21 by APAP overdose may represent a compensatory mechanism to protect against the drug-induced hepatotoxicity, by enhancing PGC-1α/Nrf2-mediated antioxidant capacity in the liver.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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