Liver-specific Prkn knockout mice are more susceptible to diet-induced hepatic steatosis and insulin resistance

Lia R. Edmunds, Bingxian Xie, Amanda M. Mills, Brydie R. Huckestein, ... Michael J. Jurczak


PARKIN is an E3 ubiquitin ligase that regulates mitochondrial quality control through a process called mitophagy. Recent human and rodent studies suggest that loss of hepatic mitophagy may occur during the pathogenesis of obesity-associated fatty liver and contribute to changes in mitochondrial metabolism associated with this disease. Whole-body Prkn knockout mice are paradoxically protected against diet-induced hepatic steatosis; however, liver-specific effects of Prkn deficiency cannot be discerned in this model due to pleotropic effects of germline Prkndeletion on energy balance and subsequent protection against diet-induced obesity. We therefore generated the first liver-specific Prkn knockout mouse strain (LKO) to directly address the role of hepatic Prkn.


Littermate control (WT) and LKO mice were fed regular chow (RC) or high-fat diet (HFD) and changes in body weight and composition were measured over time. Liver mitochondrial content was assessed using multiple, complementary techniques, and mitochondrial respiratory capacity was assessed using Oroboros O2K platform. Liver fat was measured biochemically and assessed histologically, while global changes in hepatic gene expression were measured by RNA-seq. Whole-body and tissue-specific insulin resistance were assessed by hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp with isotopic tracers.


Liver-specific deletion of Prkn had no effect on body weight or adiposity during RC or HFD feeding; however, hepatic steatosis was increased by 45% in HFD-fed LKO compared with WT mice (P < 0.05). While there were no differences in mitochondrial content between genotypes on either diet, mitochondrial respiratory capacity and efficiency in the liver were significantly reduced in LKO mice. Gene enrichment analyses from liver RNA-seq results suggested significant changes in pathways related to lipid metabolism and fibrosis in HFD-fed Prkn knockout mice. Finally, whole-body insulin sensitivity was reduced by 35% in HFD-fed LKO mice (P < 0.05), which was primarily due to increased hepatic insulin resistance (60% of whole-body effect; P = 0.11).


These data demonstrate that PARKIN contributes to mitochondrial homeostasis in the liver and plays a protective role against the pathogenesis of hepatic steatosis and insulin resistance.