Sex modulates hepatic mitochondrial adaptations to high-fat diet and physical activity

Colin S. McCoin, Alex Von Schulze, Julie Allen, Kelly N.Z. Fuller, Qing Xia, Devin C. Koestler, Claire J. Houchen, Adrianna Maurer, Gerald W. Dorn, Kartik Shankar, E. Matthew Morris, John P. Thyfault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The impact of sexual dimorphism and mitophagy on hepatic mitochondrial adaptations during the treatment of steatosis with physical activity are largely unknown. Here, we tested if deficiencies in liver-specific peroxisome prolifera-tive activated-receptor-γ coactivator-1α (PGC-1α), a transcriptional coactivator of biogenesis, and BCL-2/ADENOVIRUS EIB 19-kDa interacting protein (BNIP3), a mitophagy regulator, would impact hepatic mitochondrial adaptations (respiratory capacity, H2O2 production, mitophagy) to a high-fat diet (HFD) and HFD plus physical activity via voluntary wheel running (VWR) in both sexes. Male and female wild-type (WT), liver-specific PGC-1α heterozygote (LPGC-1α), and BNIP3 null mice were thermoneutral housed (29–31°C) and divided into three groups: sedentary-low-fat diet (LFD), 16 wk of (HFD), or 16 wk of HFD with VWR for the final 8 wk (HFD + VWR) (n = 5–7/sex/group). HFD did not impair mitochondrial respiratory capacity or coupling in any group; however, HFD + VWR significantly increased maximal respiratory capacity only in WT and PGC-1α females. Males required VWR to elicit mitochondrial adaptations that were inherently present in sedentary females including greater mitochondrial coupling control and reduced H2O2 production. Females had overall reduced markers of mitophagy, steatosis, and liver damage. Steatosis and markers of liver injury were present in sedentary male mice on the HFD and were effectively reduced with VWR despite no resolution of steatosis. Overall, reductions in PGC-1α and loss of BNIP3 only modestly impacted mitochondrial adaptations to HFD and HFD + VWR with the biggest effect seen in BNIP3 females. In conclusion, hepatic mitochondrial adaptations to HFD and treatment of HFD-induced steatosis with VWR are more dependent on sex than PGC-1α or BNIP3.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E298-E311
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Liver
  • Metabolism
  • Mitochondrial respiratory capacity
  • Mitophagy
  • Reactive oxygen species


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