Cytohesin-3 is required for full insulin receptor signaling and controls body weight via lipid excretion.
Insulin plays a central role in regulating metabolic homeostasis and guanine-nucleotide exchange factors of the cytohesin family have been suggested to be involved in insulin signal transduction. The Drosophila homolog of cytohesin-3, steppke, has been shown to be essential for insulin signaling during larval development. However, genetic evidence for the functional importance of cytohesin-3 in mammals is missing. We therefore analyzed the consequences of genetic cytohesin-3-deficiency on insulin signaling and function in young and aged mice, using normal chow or high-fat diet (HFD). Insulin-receptor dependent signaling events are significantly reduced in liver and adipose tissue of young cytohesin-3-deficient mice after insulin-injection, although blood glucose levels and other metabolic parameters remain normal in these animals. Interestingly, however, cytohesin-3-deficient mice showed a reduced age- and HFD-induced weight gain with a significant reduction of body fat compared to wild-type littermates. Furthermore, cytohesin-3-deficient mice on HFD displayed no alterations in energy expenditure, but had an increased lipid excretion instead, as well as a reduced expression of genes essential for bile acid synthesis. Our findings show for the first time that an intact cyth3 locus is required for full insulin signaling in mammals and might constitute a novel therapeutic target for weight reduction.