Amino acid-dependent activation of liver estrogen receptor alpha integrates metabolic and reproductive functions via IGF-1

Cell Metab. 2011 Feb 2;13(2):205-14. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2011.01.002.


Throughout evolution, organisms have devised strategies to limit fertility in case of prolonged starvation. In mammals, the liver plays a central role in the orchestration of mechanisms allowing for the maintenance of energy homeostasis. We here demonstrate that dietary amino acids regulate the transcriptional activity of hepatic estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) through an mTOR-dependent mechanism. As a result of ERα activation, hepatic IGF-1 mRNA and blood IGF-1 are increased. Conversely, calorie restriction or selective ablation of ERα in the liver decrease blood IGF-1 to levels inadequate for the correct proliferation of the lumen epithelium in the uterus and the progression of the estrous cycle. We propose that the liver acts as critical mediator of energetic and reproductive functions responsible for the blockade of the estrous cycle in case of protein scarcity. Our findings may provide novel insights to understand the cause of selected forms of infertility and metabolic alterations in women after menopause.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / genetics
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects
  • Fertility / physiology
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / genetics
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Amino Acids
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases