Cyclin-dependent kinase 4 is a preclinical target for diet-induced obesity

JCI Insight. 2018 Sep 6;3(17):e123000. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.123000.


When obesity is caused by consumption of a high-fat diet, the tumor suppressor pRb is phosphoinactivated in the neurons of the mediobasal hypothalamus, a brain area critical for energy-balance regulation. However, the functional relevance of pRb phosphoinactivation in the mediobasal hypothalamus to diet-induced obesity remains unknown. Here, we show that inhibiting pRb phosphorylation in the mediobasal hypothalamus can prevent and treat diet-induced obesity in mice. Expressing an unphosphorylable pRb nonselectively in the mediobasal hypothalamus or conditionally in anorexigenic POMC neurons inhibits diet-induced obesity. Intracerebroventricular delivery of US Food and Drug Administration-approved (FDA-approved) cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4) inhibitor abemaciclib inhibits pRb phosphorylation in the mediobasal hypothalamus and prevents diet-induced obesity. Oral administration of abemaciclib at doses approved for human use reduces fat mass in diet-induced obese mice by increasing lipid oxidation without significantly reducing lean mass. With analysis of recent literature identifying CDK4 as the most abundantly expressed neuronal CDK in the mediobasal hypothalamus, our work uncovers CDK4 as the major kinase for hypothalamic pRb phosphoinactivation and a highly effective central antiobesity target. As three CDK4/6 inhibitors have recently received FDA approval for life-long breast cancer therapy, our study provides a preclinical basis for their expedient repurposing for obesity management.

Keywords: Metabolism; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aminopyridines / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Benzimidazoles / pharmacology*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4 / metabolism*
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Approval
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / metabolism
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Aminopyridines
  • Benzimidazoles
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • abemaciclib
  • Cdk4 protein, mouse
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4