Recent evidence suggests the substantial pathogenic role of the Janus kinase (JAK)/signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) pathway in the development of low-grade chronic inflammatory response, known as “metaflammation,” which contributes to obesity and type 2 diabetes. In this study, we investigated the effects of the JAK1/2 inhibitor baricitinib, recently approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, in a murine high-fat-high sugar diet model.
Male C57BL/6 mice were fed with a control normal diet (ND) or a high-fat-high sugar diet (HD) for 22 weeks. A sub-group of HD fed mice was treated with baricitinib (10 mg/kg die, p.o.) for the last 16 weeks (HD + Bar).
HD feeding resulted in obesity, insulin-resistance, hypercholesterolemia and alterations in gut microbial composition. The metabolic abnormalities were dramatically reduced by chronic baricitinib administration. Treatment of HD mice with baricitinib did not change the diet-induced alterations in the gut, but restored insulin signaling in the liver and skeletal muscle, resulting in improvements of diet-induced myosteatosis, mesangial expansion and associated proteinuria. The skeletal muscle and renal protection were due to inhibition of the local JAK2-STAT2 pathway by baricitinib. We also demonstrated that restored tissue levels of JAK2-STAT2 activity were associated with a significant reduction in cytokine levels in the blood.
In summary, our data suggest that the JAK2-STAT2 pathway may represent a novel candidate for the treatment of diet-related metabolic derangements, with the potential for EMA- and FDA-approved JAK inhibitors to be repurposed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and/or its complications.