A Structure-function Analysis of Hepatocyte Arginase 2 Reveals Mitochondrial Ureahydrolysis as a Determinant of Glucose Oxidation

Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2024 Jan 25;17(5):801-820. doi: 10.1016/j.jcmgh.2024.01.016. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background & aims: Restoring hepatic and peripheral insulin sensitivity is critical to prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Glucose homeostasis comprises in part the complex regulation of hepatic glucose production and insulin-mediated glucose uptake and oxidation in peripheral tissues. We previously identified hepatocyte arginase 2 (Arg2) as an inducible ureahydrolase that improves glucose homeostasis and enhances glucose oxidation in multiple obese, insulin-resistant models. We therefore examined structure-function determinants through which hepatocyte Arg2 governs systemic insulin action and glucose oxidation.

Methods: To do this, we generated mice expressing wild-type murine Arg2, enzymatically inactive Arg2 (Arg2H160F) and Arg2 lacking its putative mitochondrial targeting sequence (Arg2Δ1-22). We expressed these hepatocyte-specific constructs in obese, diabetic (db/db) mice and performed genetic complementation analyses in hepatocyte-specific Arg2-deficent (Arg2LKO) mice.

Results: We show that Arg2 attenuates hepatic steatosis, independent of mitochondrial localization or ureahydrolase activity, and that enzymatic arginase activity is dispensable for Arg2 to augment total body energy expenditure. In contrast, mitochondrial localization and ureahydrolase activity were required for Arg2-mediated reductions in fasting glucose and insulin resistance indices. Mechanistically, Arg2Δ1-22 and Arg2H160F failed to suppress glucose appearance during hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamping. Quantification of heavy-isotope-labeled glucose oxidation further revealed that mistargeting or ablating Arg2 enzymatic function abrogates Arg2-induced peripheral glucose oxidation.

Conclusion: We conclude that the metabolic effects of Arg2 extend beyond its enzymatic activity, yet hepatocyte mitochondrial ureahydrolysis drives hepatic and peripheral oxidative metabolism. The data define a structure-based mechanism mediating hepatocyte Arg2 function and nominate hepatocyte mitochondrial ureahydrolysis as a key determinant of glucose oxidative capacity in mammals.

Keywords: Arginase; Diabetes; Energy Metabolism; GLUT; Glucose Transport; Insulin Resistance; Metabolic Dysfunction-Associated Steatotic Liver Disease; Mitochondria; Obesity; Oxidation; Proteomics; Thermogenesis; Urea Cycle.