Background & aims: Embedded into a complex signaling network that coordinates glucose uptake, usage and production, the nuclear bile acid receptor FXR is expressed in several glucose-processing organs including the liver. Hepatic gluconeogenesis is controlled through allosteric regulation of gluconeogenic enzymes and by glucagon/cAMP-dependent transcriptional regulatory pathways. We aimed to elucidate the role of FXR in the regulation of fasting hepatic gluconeogenesis.
Methods: The role of FXR in hepatic gluconeogenesis was assessed in vivo and in mouse primary hepatocytes. Gene expression patterns in response to glucagon and FXR agonists were characterized by quantitative reverse transcription PCR and microarray analysis. FXR phosphorylation by protein kinase A was determined by mass spectrometry. The interaction of FOXA2 with FXR was identified by cistromic approaches and in vitro protein-protein interaction assays. The functional impact of the crosstalk between FXR, the PKA and FOXA2 signaling pathways was assessed by site-directed mutagenesis, transactivation assays and restoration of FXR expression in FXR-deficient hepatocytes in which gene expression and glucose production were assessed.
Results: FXR positively regulates hepatic glucose production through two regulatory arms, the first one involving protein kinase A-mediated phosphorylation of FXR, which allowed for the synergistic activation of gluconeogenic genes by glucagon, agonist-activated FXR and CREB. The second arm involves the inhibition of FXR's ability to induce the anti-gluconeogenic nuclear receptor SHP by the glucagon-activated FOXA2 transcription factor, which physically interacts with FXR. Additionally, knockdown of Foxa2 did not alter glucagon-induced and FXR agonist enhanced expression of gluconeogenic genes, suggesting that the PKA and FOXA2 pathways regulate distinct subsets of FXR responsive genes.
Conclusions: Thus, hepatic glucose production is regulated during physiological fasting by FXR, which integrates the glucagon/cAMP signal and the FOXA2 signal, by being post-translationally modified, and by engaging in protein-protein interactions, respectively.
Lay summary: Activation of the nuclear bile acid receptor FXR regulates gene expression networks, controlling lipid, cholesterol and glucose metabolism, which are mostly effective after eating. Whether FXR exerts critical functions during fasting is unknown. The results of this study show that FXR transcriptional activity is regulated by the glucagon/protein kinase A and the FOXA2 signaling pathways, which act on FXR through phosphorylation and protein-protein interactions, respectively, to increase hepatic glucose synthesis.
Keywords: Bile acid; FOXA2; FXR; Glucagon; Gluconeogenesis; Liver; Nuclear receptor; PKA; Transcription.
Copyright © 2018 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.