Liver-specific nonviral gene delivery of fibroblast growth factor 21 protein expression in mice regulates body mass and white/brown fat respiration

Nathaniel G. Girer, Victoria G. Rontoyanni, Aditya Joshi, Igor Patrikeev, Andrew J. Murton, Craig Porter, Massoud Motamedi, Cornelis J. Elferink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Viral-mediated in vivo gene delivery methods currently dominate among therapeutic strategies within the clinical and experimental settings, albeit with well documented limitations arising from immunologic constraints. In this study, we demonstrate the utility of nonviral hepatotropic in vivo gene delivery of unpackaged expression constructs, including one encoding fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21). FGF21 is an important hepatokine whose expression positively correlates with therapeutic outcomes across various animal models of obesity. Our data demonstrate that FGF21 expression can be restored into the livers of immunocompetent FGF21 knockout mice for at least 2 weeks after a single injection with an FGF21 expression plasmid. In wild-type C57BL6/J mice, in vivo transfection with an FGF21-expressing plasmid induced weight loss, decreased adiposity, and activated thermogenesis in white fat within 2 weeks. Furthermore, in vivo FGF21 gene delivery protected C57BL6/J mice against diet-induced obesity by decreasing adiposity and increasing uncoupling protein 1-dependent thermogenesis in brown fat and by boosting respiratory capacity in subcutaneous and perigonadal white fat. Together, the data illustrate a facile and effective methodology for delivering prolonged protein expression specifically to the liver. We contend that this method will find utility in basic science research as a practical means to enhance in vivo studies characterizing liver protein function. We further believe our data provide a rationale for further exploring the potential clinical utility of nonviral gene therapy in mouse models of disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-165
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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