Exercise-induced α-ketoglutaric acid stimulates muscle hypertrophy and fat loss through OXGR1-dependent adrenal activation

EMBO J. 2020 Apr 1;39(7):e103304. doi: 10.15252/embj.2019103304. Epub 2020 Feb 27.


Beneficial effects of resistance exercise on metabolic health and particularly muscle hypertrophy and fat loss are well established, but the underlying chemical and physiological mechanisms are not fully understood. Here, we identified a myometabolite-mediated metabolic pathway that is essential for the beneficial metabolic effects of resistance exercise in mice. We showed that substantial accumulation of the tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediate α-ketoglutaric acid (AKG) is a metabolic signature of resistance exercise performance. Interestingly, human plasma AKG level is also negatively correlated with BMI. Pharmacological elevation of circulating AKG induces muscle hypertrophy, brown adipose tissue (BAT) thermogenesis, and white adipose tissue (WAT) lipolysis in vivo. We further found that AKG stimulates the adrenal release of adrenaline through 2-oxoglutarate receptor 1 (OXGR1) expressed in adrenal glands. Finally, by using both loss-of-function and gain-of-function mouse models, we showed that OXGR1 is essential for AKG-mediated exercise-induced beneficial metabolic effects. These findings reveal an unappreciated mechanism for the salutary effects of resistance exercise, using AKG as a systemically derived molecule for adrenal stimulation of muscle hypertrophy and fat loss.

Keywords: AKG; OXGR1; lipolysis; obesity; thermogenesis.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Female
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Humans
  • Ketoglutaric Acids / blood*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Animal
  • Muscular Atrophy / genetics*
  • Muscular Atrophy / metabolism
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / genetics*
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / metabolism
  • Resistance Training / methods*


  • Ketoglutaric Acids
  • OXGR1 protein, human
  • OXGR1 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2

Associated data

  • SRA/PRJNA602040