Reducing hepatic endoplasmic reticulum stress ameliorates the impairment in insulin signaling induced by high levels of β-hydroxybutyrate in bovine hepatocytes

Lin Lei, Wenwen Gao, Juan J. Loor, Ahmad Aboragah, Zhiyuan Fang, Xiliang Du, Min Zhang, Yuxiang Song, Guowen Liu, Xinwei Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ketotic dairy cows exhibit a state of negative energy balance (NEB) characterized by elevated circulating levels of β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and fatty acids. Impaired hepatic insulin signaling in dairy cows occurs frequently during the transition into lactation, but its role on liver function during this period is not well known. In nonruminants, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is a causal factor contributing to impaired insulin signaling in the liver. Thus, the aim of this study was to investigate the status of hepatic insulin and ER stress signaling and whether ER stress contributes to impaired insulin signaling in dairy cows with ketosis. Healthy (control cows, n = 10, BHB ≤0.6 mM) and ketotic (ketotic cows, n = 10, BHB ≥1.2 mM) cows at 3 to 10 d in milk were selected for liver biopsy and blood sampling before feeding. In vitro experiments were conducted with isolated hepatocytes from 5 healthy calves (1 d old, fasted female, 30–40 kg of body weight). Treatments included BHB (0, 0.9, 1.8, 3.6 mM), tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA, a canonical inhibitor of ER stress), and different incubation times (0.5, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, or 12 h). Ketotic cows had lower daily milk yield (median: 29.50 vs. 23.00 kg), higher plasma nonesterified fatty acid (NEFA) (median: 0.33 vs. 1.17 mM), BHB (median: 0.43 vs. 3.22 mM), aspartate aminotransferase (median: 70.58 vs. 155.70 U/L), alanine aminotransferase (median: 18.31 vs. 37.90 U/L), lower plasma glucose (median: 4.32 vs. 2.37 mg/dL), and revised quantitative insulin sensitivity check index (median: 0.39 vs. 0.37) compared with healthy cows. Increased abundance of phosphorylated insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS1) and decreased abundance of phosphorylated protein kinase B (AKT) and glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK3β) in ketotic cows indicated a state of insulin resistance. In addition, abundance of phosphorylated protein kinase RNA-like ER kinase (PERK) and inositol requiring protein-1α (IRE1α), and cleavage of activating transcription factor-6 (ATF6) were greater in the liver of ketotic cows. In vitro, at the early stages of incubation, treatment with BHB upregulated abundance of phosphorylated of IRE1α, PERK, and the cleavage of ATF6, as well as several unfolded protein response genes [X-box-binding protein-1 (XBP1), 78 kDa glucose-regulated protein (GRP78), and C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP)]. Furthermore, in response to increasing doses of BHB, the phosphorylation level of PERK, IRE1α, and the cleavage of ATF6, and the abundance of XBP1, GRP78, and CHOP increased. In addition, BHB treatment increased phosphorylation of IRS1 and decreased phosphorylation of AKT and GSK3β, and upregulated abundance of gluconeogenic genes (phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase and glucose-6-phosphatase). Importantly, these changes were reversed by inhibiting ER stress with TUDCA treatment. Overall, the present study indicated that reversing ER stress during ketosis might help alleviate hepatic insulin resistance. Targeting ER stress may represent a potential therapeutic target for controlling the negative aspects of ketosis on liver function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12845-12858
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • acid
  • dairy cow
  • endoplasmic reticulum stress
  • insulin resistance
  • ketosis
  • tauroursodeoxycholic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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