Biologically active, high levels of interleukin-22 inhibit hepatic gluconeogenesis but do not affect obesity and its metabolic consequences

Cell Biosci. 2015 May 30;5:25. doi: 10.1186/s13578-015-0015-0. eCollection 2015.


Background: Interleukin-22 (IL-22), a cytokine with important functions in anti-microbial defense and tissue repair, has been recently suggested to have beneficial effects in obesity and metabolic syndrome in some but not in other studies. Here, we re-examined the effects of IL-22 on obesity, insulin resistance, and hepatic glucose metabolism.

Results: Genetic deletion of IL-22 did not affect high-fat-diet (HFD)-induced obesity and insulin resistance. IL-22 transgenic mice with relatively high levels of circulating IL-22 (~600 pg/ml) were completely resistant to Concanavalin A-induced liver injury but developed the same degree of high fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity, insulin resistance, and fatty liver as the wild-type littermate controls. Similarly, chronic treatment with recombinant mouse IL-22 (rmIL-22) protein did not affect HFD-induced obesity and the associated metabolic syndrome. In vivo treatment with a single dose of rmIL-22 downregulated the hepatic expression of gluconeogenic genes and subsequently inhibited hepatic gluconeogenesis and reduced blood glucose levels both in HFD-fed and streptozotocin (STZ)-treated mice without affecting insulin production. In vitro exposure of mouse primary hepatocytes to IL-22 suppressed glucose production and the expression of gluconeogenic genes. These inhibitory effects were partially reversed by blocking STAT3 or the AMPK signaling pathway.

Conclusion: Biologically active, high levels of IL-22 do not affect obesity and the associated metabolic syndrome. Acute treatment with IL-22 inhibits hepatic gluconeogenesis, which is mediated via the activation of STAT3 and AMPK in hepatocytes.

Keywords: Cytokine; Hyperglycemia; Insulin resistance; Liver; Obesity.