Beta-hydroxybutyrate suppresses hepatic production of the ghrelin receptor antagonist, LEAP2

Stephanie Holm, Anna S Husted, Louise J Skov, Thomas H Morville, Christoffer A Hagemann, Tina Jorsal, Morten Dall, Alexander Jakobsen, Anders B Klein, Jonas T Treebak, Filip K Knop, Thue W Schwartz, Christoffer Clemmensen, Birgitte Holst


INTRODUCTION: Liver-expressed antimicrobial peptide-2 (LEAP2) is an endogenous ghrelin receptor antagonist, which is upregulated in the fed state and downregulated during fasting. We hypothesized that the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is involved in the downregulation of LEAP2 during conditions with high circulating levels of BHB.

METHODS: Hepatic and intestinal Leap2 expression were determined in 3 groups of mice with increasing circulating levels of BHB: prolonged fasting, prolonged ketogenic diet, and oral BHB treatment. LEAP2 levels were measured in lean and obese individuals, in human individuals following endurance exercise, and in mice after BHB treatment. Lastly, we investigated Leap2 expression in isolated murine hepatocytes challenged with BHB.

RESULTS: We confirmed increased circulating LEAP2 levels in individuals with obesity compared to lean individuals. The recovery period after endurance exercise was associated with increased plasma levels of BHB levels and decreased LEAP2 levels in humans. Leap2 expression was selectively decreased in the liver after fasting and after exposure to a ketogenic diet for 3 weeks. Importantly, we found that oral administration of BHB increased circulating levels of BHB in mice and decreased Leap2 expression levels and circulating LEAP2 plasma levels, as did Leap2 expression after direct exposure to BHB in isolated murine hepatocytes.

CONCLUSION: From our data, we suggest that LEAP2 is downregulated during different states of energy deprivation in both humans and rodents. Furthermore, we here provide evidence that the ketone body, BHB, which is highly upregulated during fasting metabolism, directly downregulates LEAP2 levels. This may be relevant in ghrelin receptor-induced hunger signaling during energy deprivation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbqac038
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)bqac038
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid/metabolism
  • Animals
  • Diet, Ketogenic
  • Ghrelin/metabolism
  • Liver/metabolism
  • Mice
  • Obesity/metabolism
  • Receptors, Ghrelin/metabolism


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