Spinal Cord Injury Reduces Serum Levels of Fibroblast Growth Factor-21 and Impairs its Signaling Pathways in Liver and Adipose Tissue in Mice

Academic Article


  • Spinal cord injury (SCI) results in dysregulation of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism; the underlying cellular and physiological mechanisms remain unclear. Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is a circulating protein primarily secreted by the liver that lowers blood glucose levels, corrects abnormal lipid profiles, and mitigates non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. FGF21 acts via activating FGF receptor 1 and ß-klotho in adipose tissue and stimulating release of adiponectin from adipose tissue which in turn signals in the liver and skeletal muscle. We examined FGF21/adiponectin signaling after spinal cord transection in mice fed a high fat diet (HFD) or a standard mouse chow. Tissues were collected at 84 days after spinal cord transection or a sham SCI surgery. SCI reduced serum FGF21 levels and hepatic FGF21 expression, as well as β-klotho and FGF receptor-1 (FGFR1) mRNA expression in adipose tissue. SCI also reduced serum levels and adipose tissue mRNA expression of adiponectin and leptin, two major adipokines. In addition, SCI suppressed hepatic type 2 adiponectin receptor (AdipoR2) mRNA expression and PPARα activation in the liver. Post-SCI mice fed a HFD had further suppression of serum FGF21 levels and hepatic FGF21 expression. Elevated serum free fatty acid (FFA) levels after HFD feeding were observed in post-SCI mice but not in shammice, suggesting defective FFA uptake after SCI. Moreover, after SCI several genes that are implicated in insulin’s action had reduced expression in tissues of interest. These findings suggest that downregulated FGF21/adiponectin signaling and impaired responsiveness of adipose tissues to FGF21 may, at least in part, contribute to the overall picture of metabolic dysfunction after SCI.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 11497056
  • Author List

  • Liu X-H; Graham Z; Harlow L; Pan J; Azulai D; Bauman W; Yarrow J; Cardozo C