A macrophage-hepatocyte glucocorticoid receptor axis coordinates fasting ketogenesis

Cell Metab. 2022 Mar 1;34(3):473-486.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2022.01.004. Epub 2022 Feb 3.


Fasting metabolism and immunity are tightly linked; however, it is largely unknown how immune cells contribute to metabolic homeostasis during fasting in healthy subjects. Here, we combined cell-type-resolved genomics and computational approaches to map crosstalk between hepatocytes and liver macrophages during fasting. We identified the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) as a key driver of fasting-induced reprogramming of the macrophage secretome including fasting-suppressed cytokines and showed that lack of macrophage GR impaired induction of ketogenesis during fasting as well as endotoxemia. Mechanistically, macrophage GR suppressed the expression of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and promoted nuclear translocation of hepatocyte GR to activate a fat oxidation/ketogenesis-related gene program, cooperatively induced by GR and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARα) in hepatocytes. Together, our results demonstrate how resident liver macrophages directly influence ketogenesis in hepatocytes, thereby also outlining a strategy by which the immune system can set the metabolic tone during inflammatory disease and infection.

Keywords: fasting; genomics; glucocorticoid receptor; hepatocyte; ketogenesis; liver; macrophage; nuclear receptor; transcripional regulation; tumor necrosis factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fasting* / metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ketone Bodies / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • PPAR alpha / metabolism
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid* / metabolism


  • Ketone Bodies
  • PPAR alpha
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid