• appetite;
  • metabolic rate;
  • energy expenditure;
  • photoperiod

The present study aimed to investigate the actions of fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) on energy balance in a natural model of relative fatness, the Siberian hamster. Hamsters were studied under long days (LD) to promote weight gain, or short days to induce weight loss, and treated with rhFGF21 (3 mg/kg/day) via s.c. minipumps for 14 days. On days 7–9, detailed assessments of ingestive behaviour, metabolic gas exchange and locomotor activity were made. FGF21 caused substantial (P < 0.0001) weight loss in the fat LD state but not in the lean SD state: at the end of the study, FGF21-treated hamsters in LD lost 18% of body weight compared to vehicle controls, which is comparable to the natural body weight loss observed in SD. Epididymal fat pads, a correlate of total carcass fat content, were reduced by 19% in FGF21 treated hamsters in LD, whereas no difference was found in SD. Body weight loss in LD was associated with a reduction in food intake (P < 0.001) and a decreased respiratory exchange ratio (P < 0.001), indicating increased fat oxidation. Treatment with FGF21 maintained the normal nocturnal increase in oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production into the early light phase in hamsters in LD, indicating increased energy expenditure, although locomotor activity was unaffected. These data suggest a greater efficacy of FGF21 in hamsters in LD compared to those in SD, which is consistent with both the peripheral and possibly central actions of FGF21 with respect to promoting a lean phenotype. The observed differences in FGF21 sensitivity may relate to day length-induced changes in adipose tissue mass.