Plasma FGF21 levels and hepatic FGF21 gene expression increase dramatically after birth in mice. This induction is initiated by suckling, requires lipid intake, is impaired in PPARalpha null neonates, and is mimicked by treatment with the PPARalpha activator, Wy14,643. Neonates exhibit reduced FGF21 expression in response to fasting, in contrast to the upregulation occurring in adults. Changes in FGF21 expression due to suckling or nutritional manipulations were associated with circulating free fatty acid and ketone body levels. We mimicked the FGF21 postnatal rise by injecting FGF21 into fasting neonates, and found that this enhanced the expression of genes involved in thermogenesis within brown fat, and increased body temperature. Brown adipocytes treated with FGF21 exhibited increased expression of thermogenic genes, higher total and uncoupled respiration, and enhanced glucose oxidation. We propose that the induction of FGF21 production by the liver mediates direct activation of brown fat thermogenesis during the fetal-to-neonatal transition.
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