Crosstalk of hepatocyte nuclear factor 4a and glucocorticoid receptor in the regulation of lipid metabolism in mice fed a high-fat-high-sugar diet

Hong Lu, Xiaohong Lei, Rebecca Winkler, Savio John, Devendra Kumar, Wenkuan Li, Yazen Alnouti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α (HNF4α) and glucocorticoid receptor (GR), master regulators of liver metabolism, are down-regulated in fatty liver diseases. The present study aimed to elucidate the role of down-regulation of HNF4α and GR in fatty liver and hyperlipidemia. Methods: Adult mice with liver-specific heterozygote (HET) and knockout (KO) of HNF4α or GR were fed a high-fat-high-sugar diet (HFHS) for 15 days. Alterations in hepatic and circulating lipids were determined with analytical kits, and changes in hepatic mRNA and protein expression in these mice were quantified by real-time PCR and Western blotting. Serum and hepatic levels of bile acids were quantified by LC-MS/MS. The roles of HNF4α and GR in regulating hepatic gene expression were determined using luciferase reporter assays. Results: Compared to HFHS-fed wildtype mice, HNF4α HET mice had down-regulation of lipid catabolic genes, induction of lipogenic genes, and increased hepatic and blood levels of lipids, whereas HNF4α KO mice had fatty liver but mild hypolipidemia, down-regulation of lipid-efflux genes, and induction of genes for uptake, synthesis, and storage of lipids. Serum levels of chenodeoxycholic acid and deoxycholic acid tended to be decreased in the HNF4α HET mice but dramatically increased in the HNF4α KO mice, which was associated with marked down-regulation of cytochrome P450 7a1, the rate-limiting enzyme for bile acid synthesis. Hepatic mRNA and protein expression of sterol-regulatory-element-binding protein-1 (SREBP-1), a master lipogenic regulator, was induced in HFHS-fed HNF4α HET mice. In reporter assays, HNF4α cooperated with the corepressor small heterodimer partner to potently inhibit the transactivation of mouse and human SREBP-1C promoter by liver X receptor. Hepatic nuclear GR proteins tended to be decreased in the HNF4α KO mice. HFHS-fed mice with liver-specific KO of GR had increased hepatic lipids and induction of SREBP-1C and PPARγ, which was associated with a marked decrease in hepatic levels of HNF4α proteins in these mice. In reporter assays, GR and HNF4α synergistically/additively induced lipid catabolic genes. Conclusions: induction of lipid catabolic genes and suppression of lipogenic genes by HNF4α and GR may mediate the early resistance to HFHS-induced fatty liver and hyperlipidemia. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number46
JournalLipids in Health and Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • fatty liver
  • GR
  • heterozygote
  • high-fat diet
  • HNF4α
  • hyperlipidemia
  • knockout
  • LXR
  • PPARα
  • SREBP-1C

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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