Theranostics 2022; 12(14):6130-6142. doi:10.7150/thno.74194 This issue

Research Paper

Lgr5+ cell fate regulation by coordination of metabolic nuclear receptors during liver repair

Dan Qin1, Shenghui Liu1, Yuanyuan Lu1, Yi Yan1, Jing Zhang1, Shiyao Cao1, Mi Chen1, Ning Chen1, Wendong Huang2, Liqiang Wang3, Xiangmei Chen3, Lisheng Zhang1✉

1. College of Veterinary Medicine/College of Biomedicine and Health, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, Hu Bei, 430070, China.
2. Department of Diabetes Complications and Metabolism, Diabetes and Metabolism Research Institute, Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, CA 91010, USA.
3. Department of Nephrology, First Medical Center of Chinese PLA General Hospital, Nephrology Institute of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, State Key Laboratory of Kidney Diseases, National Clinical Research Center for Kidney Diseases, Beijing Key Laboratory of Kidney Disease Research, Beijing 100853, China.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Qin D, Liu S, Lu Y, Yan Y, Zhang J, Cao S, Chen M, Chen N, Huang W, Wang L, Chen X, Zhang L. Lgr5+ cell fate regulation by coordination of metabolic nuclear receptors during liver repair. Theranostics 2022; 12(14):6130-6142. doi:10.7150/thno.74194. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Background: Leucine-rich repeat-containing G protein-coupled receptor 5 (Lgr5) is a target gene of Wnt/β-Catenin which plays a vital role in hepatic development and regeneration. However, the regulation of Lgr5 gene and the fate of Lgr5+ cells in hepatic physiology and pathology are little known. This study aims to clarify the effect of metabolic nuclear receptors on Lgr5+ cell fate in liver.

Methods: We performed cell experiments with primary hepatocytes, Hep 1-6, Hep G2, and Huh 7 cells, and animal studies with wild-type (WT), farnesoid X receptor (FXR) knockout mice, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (PPARα) knockout mice and Lgr5-CreERT2; Rosa26-mTmG mice. GW4064 and CDCA were used to activate FXR. And GW7647 or Wy14643 was used for PPARα activation. Regulation of Lgr5 by FXR and PPARα was determined by QRT-PCR, western blot (WB) and RNAscope® in situ hybridization (ISH) and immunofluorescence (IF), luciferase reporter assay, electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP). Diethyl 1,4-dihydro-2,4,6-trimethyl-3,5-pyridinedicarboxylate (DDC) diet was used to induce liver injury.

Results: Pharmacologic activation of FXR induced Lgr5 expression, whereas activation of PPARα suppressed Lgr5 expression. Furthermore, FXR and PPARα competed for binding to shared site on Lgr5 promoter with opposite transcriptional outputs. DDC diet triggered the transition of Lgr5+ cells from resting state to proliferation. FXR activation enhanced Lgr5+ cell expansion mainly by symmetric cell division, but PPARα activation prevented Lgr5+ cell proliferation along with asymmetric cell division.

Conclusion: Our findings unravel the opposite regulatory effects of FXR and PPARα on Lgr5+ cell fate in liver under physiological and pathological conditions, which will greatly assist novel therapeutic development targeting nuclear receptors.

Keywords: FXR, PPARα, Lgr5, Proliferation, Symmetric or asymmetric cell division