The brown fat-enriched secreted factor Nrg4 preserves metabolic homeostasis through attenuation of hepatic lipogenesis

Nat Med. 2014 Dec;20(12):1436-1443. doi: 10.1038/nm.3713. Epub 2014 Nov 17.


Brown fat activates uncoupled respiration in response to cold temperature and contributes to systemic metabolic homeostasis. To date, the metabolic action of brown fat has been primarily attributed to its role in fuel oxidation and uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1)-mediated thermogenesis. Whether brown fat engages other tissues through secreted factors remains largely unexplored. Here we show that neuregulin 4 (Nrg4), a member of the epidermal growth factor (EGF) family of extracellular ligands, is highly expressed in adipose tissues, enriched in brown fat and markedly increased during brown adipocyte differentiation. Adipose tissue Nrg4 expression was reduced in rodent and human obesity. Gain- and loss-of-function studies in mice demonstrated that Nrg4 protects against diet-induced insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis through attenuating hepatic lipogenic signaling. Mechanistically, Nrg4 activates ErbB3 and ErbB4 signaling in hepatocytes and negatively regulates de novo lipogenesis mediated by LXR and SREBP1c in a cell-autonomous manner. These results establish Nrg4 as a brown fat-enriched endocrine factor with therapeutic potential for the treatment of obesity-associated disorders, including type 2 diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3T3-L1 Cells
  • Adipocytes, Brown / metabolism
  • Adipogenesis
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Fatty Liver / genetics
  • Fatty Liver / metabolism
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipogenesis*
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver X Receptors
  • Mice
  • Neuregulins / genetics*
  • Neuregulins / metabolism
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Orphan Nuclear Receptors / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • Receptor, ErbB-3 / metabolism*
  • Receptor, ErbB-4 / metabolism*
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1 / metabolism


  • Liver X Receptors
  • Neuregulins
  • Orphan Nuclear Receptors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1
  • neuregulin-4
  • ERBB3 protein, human
  • ERBB4 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-3
  • Receptor, ErbB-4

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE53877