Background & Aims: Insulin signaling is known to regulate essential proteostasis mechanisms. Methods: The analyses here examined effects of insulin signaling in the PiZ mouse model of α1-antitrypsin deficiency in which hepatocellular accumulation and proteotoxicity of the misfolded α1-antitrypsin Z variant (ATZ) causes liver fibrosis and cancer. Results: We first studied the effects of breeding PiZ mice to liver-insulin-receptor knockout (LIRKO) mice (with hepatocyte-specific insulin-receptor gene disruption). The results showed decreased hepatic ATZ accumulation and liver fibrosis in PiZ x LIRKO vs PiZ mice, with reversal of those effects when we bred PiZ x LIRKO mice onto a FOXO1-deficient background. Increased intracellular degradation of ATZ mediated by autophagy was identified as the likely mechanism for diminished hepatic proteotoxicity in PiZ x LIRKO mice and the converse was responsible for enhanced toxicity in PiZ x LIRKO x FOXO1-KO animals. Transcriptomic studies showed major effects on oxidative phosphorylation and autophagy genes, and significant induction of peroxisome proliferator–activated-receptor-γ-coactivator-1α (PGC1α) expression in PiZ-LIRKO mice. Because PGC1α plays a key role in oxidative phosphorylation, we further investigated its effects on ATZ proteostasis in our ATZ-expressing mammalian cell model. The results showed PGC1α overexpression or activation enhances autophagic ATZ degradation. Conclusions: These data implicate suppression of autophagic ATZ degradation by down-regulation of PGC1α as one mechanism by which insulin signaling exacerbates hepatic proteotoxicity in PiZ mice, and identify PGC1α as a novel target for development of new human α1-antitrypsin deficiency liver disease therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-284
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Autophagy
  • Liver Disease
  • Liver Fibrosis
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Proteostasis


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