Exercise enhances insulin sensitivity; it also improves adipocyte metabolism and reduces adipose tissue inflammation through poorly defined mechanisms. Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is a pleiotropic hormone-like protein whose insulin-sensitizing properties are predominantly mediated via receptor signaling in adipose tissue (AT). Recently, FGF21 has also been demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory properties. Meanwhile, an association between exercise and increased circulating FGF21 levels has been reported in some, but not all studies. Thus, the role that FGF21 plays in mediating the positive metabolic effects of exercise in AT are unclear. In this study, FGF21-knockout (KO) mice were used to directly assess the role of FGF21 in mediating the metabolic and anti-inflammatory effects of exercise on white AT (WAT) and brown AT (BAT). Male FGF21KO and wild-type mice were provided running wheels or remained sedentary for 8 weeks (n = 9-15/group) and compared for adiposity, insulin sensitivity (i.e., HOMA-IR, Adipo-IR) and AT inflammation and metabolic function (e.g., mitochondrial enzyme activity, subunit content). Adiposity and Adipo-IR were increased in FGF21KO mice and decreased by EX. The BAT of FGF21KO animals had reduced mitochondrial content and decreased relative mass, both normalized by EX. WAT and BAT inflammation was elevated in FGF21KO mice, reduced in both genotypes by EX. EX increased WAT Pgc1alpha gene expression, citrate synthase activity, COX I content and total AMPK content in WT but not FGF21KO mice. Collectively, these findings reveal a previously unappreciated anti-inflammatory role for FGF21 in WAT and BAT, but do not support that FGF21 is necessary for EX-mediated anti-inflammatory effects.
Keywords: FGF21; adipose tissue; exercise; inflammation.
© 2017 Society for Endocrinology.