PloS one

Orexin A affects HepG2 human hepatocellular carcinoma cells glucose metabolism via HIF-1α-dependent and -independent mechanism.

PMID 28886081


Orexins are hypothalamic neuropeptides that regulate feeding, reward, wakefulness and energy homeostasis. The present study sought to characterize the involvement of orexin A in glucose metabolism in HepG2 human hepatocellular carcinoma cells, and investigated the role of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) in the response. HepG2 cells were exposed to different concentrations of orexin A (10-9 to 10-7 M) in vitro, without or with the orexin receptor 1 (OX1R) inhibitor (SB334867), HIF-1α inhibitor (YC-1) or a combination of both inhibitors. Subsequently, OX1R, HIF-1α expression and localization, glucose uptake, glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1) expression and ATP content were measured. We further investigated the intracellular fate of glucose by measuring the gene expression of pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 1 (PDK1), lactate dehydrogenase (LDHA) and pyruvate dehydrogenase B (PDHB), as well as metabolite levels including lactate generation and mitochondrial pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) activity. The activity of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway was also assessed. Our results showed that the expression of OX1R was predominantly located in the nucleus in HepG2 cells. Orexin A oxygen-independently promoted the mRNA and protein expression of HIF-1α as well as its nuclear accumulation in HepG2 cells and the elevated HIF-1α protein was associated, at least partly, with the activation of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway. Orexin A stimulated GLUT1 expression, glucose uptake as well as ATP generation in HepG2 cells via OX1R acting through the HIF-1α pathway. Moreover, orexin A inhibited LDHA, PDK1 expression and lactate production, stimulated PDHB expression and PDH enzyme activity independent of HIF-1α. Our results indicated that orexin signaling facilitated the glucose flux into mitochondrial oxidative metabolism rather than glycolysis in HepG2 cells. These findings provide new insight into the regulation of glucose metabolism by orexin A in hepatocellular carcinoma cells.