Cobalt chloride decreases fibroblast growth factor-21 expression dependent on oxidative stress but not hypoxia-inducible factor in Caco-2 cells

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Fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF21) is a potential metabolic regulator with multiple beneficial effects on metabolic diseases. FGF21 is mainly expressed in the liver, but is also found in other tissues including the intestine, which expresses β-klotho abundantly. The intestine is a unique organ that operates in a physiologically hypoxic environment, and is responsible for the fat absorption processes including triglyceride breakdown, re-synthesis and absorption into the portal circulation. In the present study, we investigated the effects of hypoxia and the chemical hypoxia inducer, cobalt chloride (CoCl2), on FGF21 expression in Caco-2 cells and the consequence of fat accumulation. Physical hypoxia (1% oxygen) and CoCl2 treatment decreased both FGF21 mRNA and secreted protein levels. Gene silence and inhibition of hypoxia-inducible factor-α (HIFα) did not affect the reduction of FGF21 mRNA and protein levels by hypoxia. However, CoCl2 administration caused a significant increase in oxidative stress. The addition of n-acetylcysteine (NAC) suppressed CoCl2-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation and completely negated CoCl2-induced FGF21 loss. mRNA stability analysis demonstrated that the CoCl2 administration caused a remarkable reduction in FGF21 mRNA stability. Furthermore, CoCl2 increased intracellular triglyceride (TG) accumulation, along with a reduction in mRNA levels of lipid lipase, hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) and adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL), and an increase of sterol regulatory element-binding protein-1c (SREBP1c) and stearoyl-coenzyme A (SCD1). Addition of both NAC and recombinant FGF21 significantly attenuated the CoCl2-induced TG accumulation. In conclusion, the decrease of FGF21 in Caco-2 cells by chemical hypoxia is independent of HIFα, but dependent on an oxidative stress-mediated mechanism. The regulation of FGF21 by hypoxia may contribute to intestinal lipid metabolism and absorption.

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