The liver plays a critical role in glucose metabolism and communicates with peripheral tissues to maintain energy homeostasis. Obesity and insulin resistance are highly associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). However, the precise molecular details of NAFLD remain incomplete. The p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) regulate liver metabolism. However, the physiological contribution of MAPK phosphatase 1 (MKP-1) as a nuclear antagonist of both p38 MAPK and JNK in the liver is unknown. Here we show that hepatic MKP-1 becomes overexpressed following high-fat feeding. Liver-specific deletion of MKP-1 enhances gluconeogenesis and causes hepatic insulin resistance in chow-fed mice while selectively conferring protection from hepatosteatosis upon high-fat feeding. Further, hepatic MKP-1 regulates both interleukin-6 (IL-6) and fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21). Mice lacking hepatic MKP-1 exhibit reduced circulating IL-6 and FGF21 levels that were associated with impaired skeletal muscle mitochondrial oxidation and susceptibility to diet-induced obesity. Hence, hepatic MKP-1 serves as a selective regulator of MAPK-dependent signals that contributes to the maintenance of glucose homeostasis and peripheral tissue energy balance. These results also demonstrate that hepatic MKP-1 overexpression in obesity is causally linked to the promotion of hepatosteatosis.
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