The Journal of clinical investigation

Glucagon regulates gluconeogenesis through KAT2B- and WDR5-mediated epigenetic effects.

PMID 24051374


Circulating pancreatic glucagon is increased during fasting and maintains glucose balance by stimulating hepatic gluconeogenesis. Glucagon triggering of the cAMP pathway upregulates the gluconeogenic program through the phosphorylation of cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) and the dephosphorylation of the CREB coactivator CRTC2. Hormonal and nutrient signals are also thought to modulate gluconeogenic gene expression by promoting epigenetic changes that facilitate assembly of the transcriptional machinery. However, the nature of these modifications is unclear. Using mouse models and in vitro assays, we show that histone H3 acetylation at Lys 9 (H3K9Ac) was elevated over gluconeogenic genes and contributed to increased hepatic glucose production during fasting and in diabetes. Dephosphorylation of CRTC2 promoted increased H3K9Ac through recruitment of the lysine acetyltransferase 2B (KAT2B) and WD repeat-containing protein 5 (WDR5), a core subunit of histone methyltransferase (HMT) complexes. KAT2B and WDR5 stimulated the gluconeogenic program through a self-reinforcing cycle, whereby increases in H3K9Ac further potentiated CRTC2 occupancy at CREB binding sites. Depletion of KAT2B or WDR5 decreased gluconeogenic gene expression, consequently breaking the cycle. Administration of a small-molecule KAT2B antagonist lowered circulating blood glucose concentrations in insulin resistance, suggesting that this enzyme may be a useful target for diabetes treatment.