In mice, FGF21 is rapidly induced by fasting, mediates critical aspects of the adaptive starvation response, and displays a number of positive metabolic properties when administered pharmacologically. In humans, however, fasting does not consistently increase FGF21, suggesting a possible evolutionary divergence in FGF21 function. Moreover, many key aspects of FGF21 function in mice have been identified in the context of transgenic overexpression or administration of supraphysiologic doses, rather than in a physiologic setting. Here, we explored the dynamics and function of FGF21 in human volunteers during a 10-day fast. Unlike mice, which show an increase in circulating FGF21 after only 6 hours, human subjects did not have a notable surge in FGF21 until 7 to 10 days of fasting. Moreover, we determined that FGF21 induction was associated with decreased thermogenesis and adiponectin, an observation that directly contrasts with previous reports based on supraphysiologic dosing. Additionally, FGF21 levels increased after ketone induction, demonstrating that endogenous FGF21 does not drive starvation-mediated ketogenesis in humans. Instead, a longitudinal analysis of biologically relevant variables identified serum transaminases — markers of tissue breakdown — as predictors of FGF21. These data establish FGF21 as a fasting-induced hormone in humans and indicate that FGF21 contributes to the late stages of adaptive starvation, when it may regulate the utilization of fuel derived from tissue breakdown.
Pouneh K. Fazeli, Mingyue Lun, Soo M. Kim, Miriam A. Bredella, Spenser Wright, Yang Zhang, Hang Lee, Ciprian Catana, Anne Klibanski, Parth Patwari, Matthew L. Steinhauser
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. All accepted letters will be posted on our website within one week of acceptance. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors of all accepted letters will be asked to preview any changes. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were not accepted. As this is a final decision, no appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at email@example.com.