Human Paneth cell α-defensin-5 treatment reverses dyslipidemia and improves glucoregulatory capacity in diet-induced obese mice

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2019 Jul 1;317(1):E42-E52. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00019.2019. Epub 2019 Mar 12.


Overnutrition is the principal cause of insulin resistance (IR) and dyslipidemia, which drive nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Overnutrition is further linked to disrupted bowel function, microbiota alterations, and change of function in gut-lining cell populations, including Paneth cells of the small intestine. Paneth cells regulate microbial diversity through expression of antimicrobial peptides, particularly human α-defensin-5 (HD-5), and have shown repressed secretory capacity in human obesity. Mice were fed a 60% high-fat diet for 13 wk and subsequently treated with physiologically relevant amounts of HD-5 (0.001%) or vehicle for 10 wk. The glucoregulatory capacity was determined by glucose tolerance tests and measurements of corresponding insulin concentrations both before and during intervention. Gut microbiome composition was examined by 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. HD-5-treated mice exhibited improved glucoregulatory capacity along with an ameliorated plasma and liver lipid profile. This was accompanied by specific decrease in jejunal inflammation and gut microbiota alterations including increased Bifidobacterium abundances, which correlated inversely with metabolic dysfunctions. This study provides proof of concept for the use of human defensins to improve host metabolism by mitigating the triad cluster of dyslipidemia, IR, and NAFLD.

Keywords: NAFLD; diet-induced obesity; host-microbe interactions; human defensins; insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Dyslipidemias / drug therapy*
  • Dyslipidemias / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Paneth Cells / metabolism
  • alpha-Defensins / metabolism
  • alpha-Defensins / therapeutic use*


  • Blood Glucose
  • DEFA5 protein, human
  • Insulin
  • alpha-Defensins
  • Glucose