Fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF21) administration to early-lactating dairy cows. I. Effects on signaling and indices of insulin action

C. S. Krumm, S. L. Giesy, L. S. Caixeta, J. W. Perfield, H. Sauerwein, B. L. Moore, Y. R. Boisclair

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10 Scopus citations


Modern dairy cows rely on hormonally driven mechanisms to coordinate the metabolic adaptations needed to meet the energy and nutrient deficits of early lactation. In the case of glucose, dairy cows cope with its scarcity during early lactation via reduced plasma concentrations of insulin and the insulin sensitizing hormone adiponectin and increased insulin resistance. Reduced insulin action promotes diversion of available glucose to the mammary gland but increases susceptibility to diseases if excessive. In earlier work, we reported that the insulin sensitizing hormone fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF21) is increased in periparturient dairy cows and identified liver and adipose tissue as possible targets. These observations raised the possibility that FGF21 acts directly on these tissues to limit the insulin resistance of early lactation. To test this hypothesis, dairy cows were randomly assigned on d 12.6 ± 2.2 (± standard error) of lactation to receive either excipient (n = 6) or recombinant human FGF21 (n = 7), first as an FGF21 bolus of 3 mg/kg of body weight, followed 2 d later by a constant i.v. infusion of FGF21 at the rate of 6.3 mg/kg of metabolic body weight for 9 consecutive days. Biopsies of liver and adipose tissue were collected during the bolus phase of the experiment and used to analyze FGF21 signaling by Western blotting and expression of its receptor components by quantitative PCR. Bolus FGF21 administration caused a 4-fold increase in p44/42 MAPK (ERK1/2) activation in adipose tissue but had no effect on AKT and signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 (STAT3) signaling. The liver expressed negligible levels of the preferred FGF21 receptor FGFR1c and failed to mount any FGF21 signaling response. The FGF21 administered as a bolus had no effect on plasma glucose or insulin and did not stimulate an acute release of adiponectin from adipose tissue. Similarly, FGF21 infusion had no effect on plasma levels of glucose or insulin measured over the 9-d infusion or on glucose disposal during an i.v. glucose tolerance test performed on d 8 of infusion. Finally, the chronic FGF21 infusion had no effect on indices of adiponectin production, including plasma adiponectin and adipose tissue mRNA abundance of adiponectin and the endoplasmic reticulum chaperones ERO1A and DSBA-L involved in the assembly of adiponectin into multimeric complexes. These data show that human FGF21 does not act as an insulin sensitizer during the energy and glucose deficit of early lactation but do not rule out such a role in other physiological states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11586-11596
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2010-65206-20683 and Hatch/Multistate projects under 1000962 and 1017053. J. W. Perfield II is a paid employee of Eli Lilly and Company and may own company stock or possess stock options. We thank Alexei Kharitonenkov (Novo Nordisk Research Center Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN) for his interest in and support of this project. We also thank Phillip Gondim (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY) for help in performing the animal work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Dairy Science Association


  • adiponectin
  • adipose tissue
  • glucose
  • insulin resistance
  • liver


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