Digenic Variants in the FGF21 Signaling Pathway Associated with Severe Insulin Resistance and Pseudoacromegaly

J Endocr Soc. 2020 Sep 22;4(12):bvaa138. doi: 10.1210/jendso/bvaa138. eCollection 2020 Dec 1.


Insulin-mediated pseudoacromegaly (IMPA) is a rare disease of unknown etiology. Here we report a 12-year-old female with acanthosis nigricans, hirsutism, and acromegalic features characteristic of IMPA. The subject was noted to have normal growth hormone secretion, with extremely elevated insulin levels. Studies were undertaken to determine a potential genetic etiology for IMPA. The proband and her family members underwent whole exome sequencing. Functional studies were undertaken to validate the pathogenicity of candidate variant alleles. Whole exome sequencing identified monoallelic, predicted deleterious variants in genes that mediate fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) signaling, FGFR1 and KLB, which were inherited in trans from each parent. FGF21 has multiple metabolic functions but no known role in human insulin resistance syndromes. Analysis of the function of the FGFR1 and KLB variants in vitro showed greatly attenuated ERK phosphorylation in response to FGF21, but not FGF2, suggesting that these variants act synergistically to inhibit endocrine FGF21 signaling but not canonical FGF2 signaling. Therefore, digenic variants in FGFR1 and KLB provide a potential explanation for the subject's severe insulin resistance and may represent a novel category of insulin resistance syndromes related to FGF21.

Keywords: FGF21; and fibroblast growth factors; genetics; insulin resistance; pseudoacromegaly.