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  • Author: Laura L Gathercole x
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Nikolaos Nikolaou, Anastasia Arvaniti, Nathan Appanna, Anna Sharp, Beverly A Hughes, Dena Digweed, Martin J Whitaker, Richard Ross, Wiebke Arlt, Trevor M Penning, Karen Morris, Sherly George, Brian G Keevil, Leanne Hodson, Laura L Gathercole, and Jeremy W Tomlinson

Steroid 5β-reductase (AKR1D1) is highly expressed in human liver where it inactivates endogenous glucocorticoids and catalyses an important step in bile acid synthesis. Endogenous and synthetic glucocorticoids are potent regulators of metabolic phenotype and play a crucial role in hepatic glucose metabolism. However, the potential of synthetic glucocorticoids to be metabolised by AKR1D1 as well as to regulate its expression and activity has not been investigated. The impact of glucocorticoids on AKR1D1 activity was assessed in human liver HepG2 and Huh7 cells; AKR1D1 expression was assessed by qPCR and Western blotting. Genetic manipulation of AKR1D1 expression was conducted in HepG2 and Huh7 cells and metabolic assessments were made using qPCR. Urinary steroid metabolite profiling in healthy volunteers was performed pre- and post-dexamethasone treatment, using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. AKR1D1 metabolised endogenous cortisol, but cleared prednisolone and dexamethasone less efficiently. In vitro and in vivo, dexamethasone decreased AKR1D1 expression and activity, further limiting glucocorticoid clearance and augmenting action. Dexamethasone enhanced gluconeogenic and glycogen synthesis gene expression in liver cell models and these changes were mirrored by genetic knockdown of AKR1D1 expression. The effects of AKR1D1 knockdown were mediated through multiple nuclear hormone receptors, including the glucocorticoid, pregnane X and farnesoid X receptors. Glucocorticoids down-regulate AKR1D1 expression and activity and thereby reduce glucocorticoid clearance. In addition, AKR1D1 down-regulation alters the activation of multiple nuclear hormone receptors to drive changes in gluconeogenic and glycogen synthesis gene expression profiles, which may exacerbate the adverse impact of exogenous glucocorticoids.

Open access

Laura L Gathercole, Nikolaos Nikolaou, Shelley E Harris, Anastasia Arvaniti, Toryn M Poolman, Jonathan M Hazlehurst, Denise V Kratschmar, Marijana Todorčević, Ahmad Moolla, Niall Dempster, Ryan C Pink, Michael F Saikali, Liz Bentley, Trevor M Penning, Claes Ohlsson, Carolyn L Cummins, Matti Poutanen, Alex Odermatt, Roger D Cox, and Jeremy W Tomlinson

Steroid 5β-reductase (AKR1D1) plays important role in hepatic bile acid synthesis and glucocorticoid clearance. Bile acids and glucocorticoids are potent metabolic regulators, but whether AKR1D1 controls metabolic phenotype in vivo is unknown. Akr1d1–/– mice were generated on a C57BL/6 background. Liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry, metabolomic and transcriptomic approaches were used to determine effects on glucocorticoid and bile acid homeostasis. Metabolic phenotypes including body weight and composition, lipid homeostasis, glucose tolerance and insulin tolerance were evaluated. Molecular changes were assessed by RNA-Seq and Western blotting. Male Akr1d1–/– mice were challenged with a high fat diet (60% kcal from fat) for 20 weeks. Akr1d1–/– mice had a sex-specific metabolic phenotype. At 30 weeks of age, male, but not female, Akr1d1–/– mice were more insulin tolerant and had reduced lipid accumulation in the liver and adipose tissue yet had hypertriglyceridemia and increased intramuscular triacylglycerol. This phenotype was associated with sexually dimorphic changes in bile acid metabolism and composition but without overt effects on circulating glucocorticoid levels or glucocorticoid-regulated gene expression in the liver. Male Akr1d1–/– mice were not protected against diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance. In conclusion, this study shows that AKR1D1 controls bile acid homeostasis in vivo and that altering its activity can affect insulin tolerance and lipid homeostasis in a sex-dependent manner.