Insufficient expression of hepatic fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) and stromal cell-derived factor 2 like 1 (Sdf2l1) reportedly leads to insulin resistance and hepatosteatosis in obesity and type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, increased expression of hepatic serotonin receptor 2a (htr2a) in diet-induced obesity contributes to hepatosteatosis. Here we show that increases in circulating FGF21 levels and expression of hepatic FGF21 preceded weight gain, hyperinsulinemia, and hyperglycemia in C57BLJ6 mice fed a high-fat diet. Expression of hepatic htr2a and Sdf2l1 increased in insulin-resistant mice fed a high-fat diet. Intake of whey protein isolate decreased plasma FGF21 levels and expression of hepatic FGF21 in mice fed either a high-fat diet or a chow diet, whereas it only suppressed the overexpression of hepatic Sdf2 and htr2a in insulin-resistant mice fed a high-fat diet. Moreover, intake of whey protein isolate decreased plasma serotonin levels in mice fed either a high-fat diet or a chow diet. Genetic inhibition of tryptophan hydroxylase 1 decreased hepatic FGF21 expression and plasma FGF21 levels in mice. These findings suggest that increased hepatic FGF21 production precedes diet-induced weight gain, hyperinsulinemia, and hyperglycemia, and that intake of whey protein isolate could inhibit hepatic FGF21 production by suppressing peripheral serotonin synthesis.
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