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Mutations of NRG4 Contribute to the Pathogenesis of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Related Metabolic Disorders

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posted on 14.07.2021, 17:59 by Yangyang Li, Li Jin, Feng Jiang, Jing Yan, Yan Lu, Qing Yang, Yi Zhang, Hong Zhang, Hairong Yu, Yuemei Zhang, Zhen He, Rong Zhang, Jianjun Yang, Cheng Hu
Neuregulin 4 (Nrg4), an adipose tissue–enriched endocrine factor, participates in adipocyte-to-hepatocyte communication, eliciting beneficial metabolic effects in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Here, we evaluate the physiological roles of Nrg4 in humans and unravel the role of NRG4 variants in the pathogenesis of NAFLD and related metabolic disorders. We identified two rare missense mutations—p. R44H and p.E47Q— in the NRG4 EGFL domain by whole exome sequencing in 224 severely obese subjects and exome genotyping in 2,388 subjects from Shanghai Obesity Study. The over-expression animal models showed wild-type (WT) Nrg4 could attenuate high-fat diet-induced hepatic lipogenesis and improve energy metabolism. Nrg4 E47Q enhanced the protective effect, whereas Nrg4 R44H lost this function. Unlike Nrg4 R44H, Nrg4 E47Q activated the phosphorylation of ErbB4 and negatively regulated the de novo lipogenesis via the ErbB4-STAT5-SREBP1C pathway. The surface plasmon resonance experiments revealed a higher affinity of E47Q Nrg4 than WT to bind ErbB4, while R44H showed no binding. In conclusion, the study suggests that genetic variations in NRG4 could produce mutant proteins with aberrant functions, and impaired or enhanced Nrg4 function could either be a risk factor or protective factor for NAFLD and associated metabolic disorders.


The current study was supported by grants from the National Key Research and Development Project of China (2016YFC1304902), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2018YFA0800402), the Outstanding Academic Leaders of Shanghai Health System Program (2017BR008), the National Science Foundation of China (81800702), the Yangtze River Scholar Program, the National Natural Science Foundation of the People’s Republic of China (81974118), the Shanghai Outstanding Academic Leaders (20XD1433300), Shanghai Sailing Program (18YF1418900) and Shanghai Municipal Education Commission-Gaofeng Clinical Medicine Grant Support (20152527).