Hepatic sialic acid synthesis modulates glucose homeostasis in both liver and skeletal muscle

Jun Peng, Liming Yu, Linzhang Huang, Vivian A. Paschoal, Haiyan Chu, Camila O. de Souza, Joseph V. Varre, Da Young Oh, Jennifer J. Kohler, Xue Xiao, Lin Xu, William L. Holland, Philip W. Shaul, Chieko Mineo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: Sialic acid is a terminal monosaccharide of glycans in glycoproteins and glycolipids, and its derivation from glucose is regulated by the rate-limiting enzyme UDP-GlcNAc 2-epimerase/ManNAc kinase (GNE). Although the glycans on key endogenous hepatic proteins governing glucose metabolism are sialylated, how sialic acid synthesis and sialylation in the liver influence glucose homeostasis is unknown. Studies were designed to fill this knowledge gap. Methods: To decrease the production of sialic acid and sialylation in hepatocytes, a hepatocyte-specific GNE knockdown mouse model was generated, and systemic glucose metabolism, hepatic insulin signaling and glucagon signaling were evaluated in vivo or in primary hepatocytes. Peripheral insulin sensitivity was also assessed. Furthermore, the mechanisms by which sialylation in the liver influences hepatic insulin signaling and glucagon signaling and peripheral insulin sensitivity were identified. Results: Liver GNE deletion in mice caused an impairment of insulin suppression of hepatic glucose production. This was due to a decrease in the sialylation of hepatic insulin receptors (IR) and a decline in IR abundance due to exaggerated degradation through the Eph receptor B4. Hepatic GNE deficiency also caused a blunting of hepatic glucagon receptor (GCGR) function which was related to a decline in its sialylation and affinity for glucagon. An accompanying upregulation of hepatic FGF21 production caused an enhancement of skeletal muscle glucose disposal that led to an overall increase in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. Conclusion: These collective observations reveal that hepatic sialic acid synthesis and sialylation modulate glucose homeostasis in both the liver and skeletal muscle. By interrogating how hepatic sialic acid synthesis influences glucose control mechanisms in the liver, a new metabolic cycle has been identified in which a key constituent of glycans generated from glucose modulates the systemic control of its precursor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101812
JournalMolecular Metabolism
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • FGF21
  • GNE
  • Glucagon receptor
  • Glucose
  • Insulin receptor
  • Sialic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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