Retinol-binding protein 4 mRNA translation in hepatocytes is enhanced by activation of mTORC1

Jaclyn E. Welles, Allyson L. Toro, Siddharth Sunilkumar, Shaunaci A. Stevens, Carson J. Purnell, Scot R. Kimball, Michael D. Dennis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Increased expression of the peptide hormone retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4) has been implicated in the development of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and visual dysfunction. Prior investigations of the mechanisms that influence RBP4 synthesis have focused solely on changes in mRNA abundance. Yet, the production of many secreted proteins is controlled at the level of mRNA translation, as it allows for a rapid and reversible change in expression. Herein, we evaluated Rbp4 mRNA translation using sucrose density gradient centrifugation. In the liver of fasted rodents, Rbp4 mRNA translation was low. In response to refeeding, Rbp4 mRNA translation was enhanced and RBP4 levels in serum were increased. In H4IIE cells, refreshing culture medium promoted Rbp4 mRNA translation and expression of the protein. Rbp4 mRNA abundance was not increased by either experimental manipulation. Enhanced Rbp4 mRNA translation was associated with activation of the kinase mechanistic target of rapamycin in complex 1 (mTORC1) and enhanced phosphorylation of the translational repressor eukaryotic initiation factor 4Ebinding protein 1 (4E-BP1). In H4IIE cells, expression of a 4E-BP1 variant that is unable to be phosphorylated by mTORC1 or suppression of mTORC1 with rapamycin attenuated activity of a luciferase reporter encoding the Rbp4 mRNA 50-untranslated region (UTR). Purine substitutions to disrupt a terminal oligopyrimidine (TOP)-like sequence in the Rbp4 50-UTR prevented the suppressive effect of rapamycin on reporter activity. Rapamycin also prevented upregulation of Rbp4 mRNA translation in the liver and reduced serum levels of RBP4 in response to feeding. Overall, the findings support a model in which nutrient-induced activation of mTORC1 upregulates Rbp4 mRNA translation to promote RBP4 synthesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E306-E315
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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