Acute exercise increases liver gluconeogenesis to supply glucose to working muscles. Concurrently, elevated liver lipid breakdown fuels the high energetic cost of gluconeogenesis. This functional coupling between liver gluconeogenesis and lipid oxidation has been proposed to underlie the ability of regular exercise to enhance liver mitochondrial oxidative metabolism and decrease liver steatosis in individuals with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Herein we tested whether repeated bouts of increased hepatic gluconeogenesis are necessary for exercise training to lower liver lipids. Experiments used diet-induced obese mice lacking hepatic phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase 1 (KO) to inhibit gluconeogenesis and wild-type (WT) littermates. 2H/13C metabolic flux analysis quantified glucose and mitochondrial oxidative fluxes in untrained mice at rest and during acute exercise. Circulating and tissue metabolite levels were determined during sedentary conditions, acute exercise, and refeeding postexercise. Mice also underwent 6 wk of treadmill running protocols to define hepatic and extrahepatic adaptations to exercise training. Untrained KO mice were unable to maintain euglycemia during acute exercise resulting from an inability to increase gluconeogenesis. Liver triacylglycerides were elevated after acute exercise and circulating β-hydroxybutyrate was higher during postexercise refeeding in untrained KO mice. In contrast, exercise training prevented liver triacylglyceride accumulation in KO mice. This was accompanied by pronounced increases in indices of skeletal muscle mitochondrial oxidative metabolism in KO mice. Together, these results show that hepatic gluconeogenesis is dispensable for exercise training to reduce liver lipids. This may be due to responses in ketone body metabolism and/or metabolic adaptations in skeletal muscle to exercise.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Exercise training reduces hepatic steatosis partly through enhanced hepatic terminal oxidation. During acute exercise, hepatic gluconeogenesis is elevated to match the heightened rate of muscle glucose uptake and maintain glucose homeostasis. It has been postulated that the hepatic energetic stress induced by elevating gluconeogenesis during acute exercise is a key stimulus underlying the beneficial metabolic responses to exercise training. This study shows that hepatic gluconeogenesis is not necessary for exercise training to lower liver lipids.
Keywords: gluconeogenesis; glycogenolysis; ketone bodies; mitochondria; skeletal muscle.