Growth Differentiation Factor 15 Mediates Systemic Glucose Regulatory Action of T-Helper Type 2 Cytokines

T-helper type 2 (Th2) cytokines, including interleukin (IL)-13 and IL-4, produced in adipose tissue, are critical regulators of intra-adipose and systemic lipid and glucose metabolism. Furthermore, IL-13 is a potential therapy for insulin resistance in obese mouse models. Here, we examined mediators produced by adipocytes that are responsible for regulating systemic glucose homeostasis in response to Th2 cytokines. We used RNA sequencing data analysis of cultured adipocytes to screen factors secreted in response to recombinant IL-13. Recombinant IL-13 induced expression of growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15) via the Janus kinase-activated STAT6 pathway. In vivo administration of α-galactosylceramide or IL-33 increased IL-4 and IL-13 production, thereby increasing GDF15 levels in adipose tissue and in plasma of mice; however, these responses were abrogated in STAT6 knockout mice. Moreover, administration of recombinant IL-13 to wild-type mice fed a high-fat diet (HFD) improved glucose intolerance; this was not the case for GDF15 knockout mice fed the HFD. Taken together, these data suggest that GDF15 is required for IL-13–induced improvement of glucose intolerance in mice fed an HFD. Thus, beneficial effects of Th2 cytokines on systemic glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity are mediated by GDF15. These findings open up a potential pharmacological route for reversing insulin resistance associated with obesity.