We have developed an association-based approach using classical inbred strains of mice in which we correct for population structure, which is very extensive in mice, using an efficient mixed-model algorithm. Our approach includes inbred parental strains as well as recombinant inbred strains in order to capture loci with effect sizes typical of complex traits in mice (in the range of 5 % of total trait variance). Over the last few years, we have typed the hybrid mouse diversity panel (HMDP) strains for a variety of clinical traits as well as intermediate phenotypes and have shown that the HMDP has sufficient power to map genes for highly complex traits with resolution that is in most cases less than a megabase. In this essay, we review our experience with the HMDP, describe various ongoing projects, and discuss how the HMDP may fit into the larger picture of common diseases and different approaches.
Gpihbp1-deficient mice (Gpihbp1−/−) lack the ability to transport lipoprotein lipase to the capillary lumen, resulting in mislocalization of LPL within tissues, defective lipolysis of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, and chylomicronemia. We asked whether GPIHBP1 deficiency and mislocalization of catalytically active LPL would alter the composition of triglycerides in adipose tissue or perturb the expression of lipid biosynthetic genes. We also asked whether perturbations in adipose tissue composition and gene expression, if they occur, would be accompanied by reciprocal metabolic changes in the liver.
Methods and Results
The chylomicronemia in Gpihbp1−/− mice was associated with reduced levels of essential fatty acids in adipose tissue triglycerides and increased expression of lipid biosynthetic genes. The liver exhibited the opposite changes—increased levels of essential fatty acids in triglycerides and reduced expression of lipid biosynthetic genes.
Defective lipolysis in Gpihbp1−/− mice causes reciprocal metabolic perturbations in adipose tissue and liver. In adipose tissue, the essential fatty acid content of triglycerides is reduced and lipid biosynthetic gene expression is increased, while the opposite changes occur in the liver.
lipoprotein lipase; hypertriglyceridemia; lipolysis; essential fatty acids; lipid biosynthetic genes
Mutations of the orphan transporter ABCC6 (ATP-binding cassette, subfamily C, member 6) cause the connective tissue disorder pseudoxanthoma elasticum. ABCC6 was thought to be located on the plasma membrane of liver and kidney cells.
Mouse systems genetics and bioinformatics suggested that ABCC6 deficiency affects mitochondrial gene expression. We therefore tested whether ABCC6 associates with mitochondria.
Methods and Results
We found ABCC6 in crude mitochondrial fractions and subsequently pinpointed its localization to the purified mitochondria-associated membrane fraction. Cell-surface biotinylation in hepatocytes confirmed that ABCC6 is intracellular. Abcc6-knockout mice demonstrated mitochondrial abnormalities and decreased respiration reserve capacity.
Our finding that ABCC6 localizes to the mitochondria-associated membrane has implications for its mechanism of action in normal and diseased states.
PXE; vascular calcification; ABCC6/MRP6; MAM; mitochondria; cardiovascular disease
Sexual dimorphism in body weight, fat distribution, and metabolic disease has been attributed largely to differential effects of male and female gonadal hormones. Here, we report that the number of X chromosomes within cells also contributes to these sex differences. We employed a unique mouse model, known as the “four core genotypes,” to distinguish between effects of gonadal sex (testes or ovaries) and sex chromosomes (XX or XY). With this model, we produced gonadal male and female mice carrying XX or XY sex chromosome complements. Mice were gonadectomized to remove the acute effects of gonadal hormones and to uncover effects of sex chromosome complement on obesity. Mice with XX sex chromosomes (relative to XY), regardless of their type of gonad, had up to 2-fold increased adiposity and greater food intake during daylight hours, when mice are normally inactive. Mice with two X chromosomes also had accelerated weight gain on a high fat diet and developed fatty liver and elevated lipid and insulin levels. Further genetic studies with mice carrying XO and XXY chromosome complements revealed that the differences between XX and XY mice are attributable to dosage of the X chromosome, rather than effects of the Y chromosome. A subset of genes that escape X chromosome inactivation exhibited higher expression levels in adipose tissue and liver of XX compared to XY mice, and may contribute to the sex differences in obesity. Overall, our study is the first to identify sex chromosome complement, a factor distinguishing all male and female cells, as a cause of sex differences in obesity and metabolism.
Differences exist between men and women in the development of obesity and related metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Previous studies have focused on the sex-biasing role of hormones produced by male and female gonads, but these cannot account fully for the sex differences in metabolism. We discovered that removal of the gonads uncovers an important genetic determinant of sex differences in obesity—the presence of XX or XY sex chromosomes. We used a novel mouse model to tease apart the effects of male and female gonads from the effects of XX or XY chromosomes. Mice with XX sex chromosomes (relative to XY), regardless of their type of gonad, had increased body fat and ate more food during the sleep period. Mice with two X chromosomes also had accelerated weight gain, fatty liver, and hyperinsulinemia on a high fat diet. The higher expression levels of a subset of genes on the X chromosome that escape inactivation may influence adiposity and metabolic disease. The effect of X chromosome genes is present throughout life, but may become particularly significant with increases in longevity and extension of the period spent with reduced gonadal hormone levels.
Lamin B1 is essential for neuronal migration and progenitor proliferation during the development of the cerebral cortex. The observation of distinct phenotypes of Lmnb1- and Lmnb2-knockout mice and the differences in the nuclear morphology of cortical neurons in vivo suggest that lamin B1 and lamin B2 play distinct functions in the developing brain.
Neuronal migration is essential for the development of the mammalian brain. Here, we document severe defects in neuronal migration and reduced numbers of neurons in lamin B1–deficient mice. Lamin B1 deficiency resulted in striking abnormalities in the nuclear shape of cortical neurons; many neurons contained a solitary nuclear bleb and exhibited an asymmetric distribution of lamin B2. In contrast, lamin B2 deficiency led to increased numbers of neurons with elongated nuclei. We used conditional alleles for Lmnb1 and Lmnb2 to create forebrain-specific knockout mice. The forebrain-specific Lmnb1- and Lmnb2-knockout models had a small forebrain with disorganized layering of neurons and nuclear shape abnormalities, similar to abnormalities identified in the conventional knockout mice. A more severe phenotype, complete atrophy of the cortex, was observed in forebrain-specific Lmnb1/Lmnb2 double-knockout mice. This study demonstrates that both lamin B1 and lamin B2 are essential for brain development, with lamin B1 being required for the integrity of the nuclear lamina, and lamin B2 being important for resistance to nuclear elongation in neurons.
To test the hypothesis that NF-E2–related factor 2 (Nrf2) expression plays an antiatherogenic role by its vascular antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Methods and Results
Nrf2 is an important transcription factor that regulates the expression of phase 2 detoxifying enzymes and antioxidant genes. Its expression in vascular cells appears to be an important factor in the protection against vascular oxidative stress and inflammation. We developed Nrf2 heterozygous (HET) and homozygous knockout (KO) mice on an apolipoprotein (apo) E–null background by sequential breeding, resulting in Nrf2−/−, apoE−/− (KO), Nrf2−/+, apoE−/− (HET) and Nrf2+/+, and apoE−/− wild-type littermates. KO mice exhibited decreased levels of antioxidant genes with evidence of increased reactive oxygen species generation compared with wild-type controls. Surprisingly, KO males exhibited 47% and 53% reductions in the degree of aortic atherosclerosis compared with HET or wild-type littermates, respectively. Decreased atherosclerosis in KO mice correlated with lower plasma total cholesterol in a sex-dependent manner. KO mice also had a decreased hepatic cholesterol content and a lower expression of lipogenic genes, suggesting that hepatic lipogenesis could be reduced. In addition, KO mice exhibited atherosclerotic plaques characterized by a lesser macrophage component and decreased foam cell formation in an in vitro lipid-loading assay. This was associated with a lower rate of cholesterol influx, mediated in part by decreased expression of the scavenger receptor CD36.
Nrf2 expression unexpectedly promotes atherosclerotic lesion formation in a sex-dependent manner, most likely by a combination of systemic metabolic and local vascular effects.
atherosclerosis; cytokines; lipoproteins; reactive oxygen species; foam cell formation; lipogenesis; Nrf2
Adult GPIHBP1-deficient mice (Gpihbp1−/−) have severe hypertriglyceridemia; however, the plasma triglyceride levels are only mildly elevated during the suckling phase when lipoprotein lipase (Lpl) is expressed at high levels in the liver. Lpl expression in the liver can be induced in adult mice with dietary cholesterol. We therefore hypothesized that plasma triglyceride levels in adult Gpihbp1−/− mice would be sensitive to cholesterol intake.
Methods and Results
After 4–8 weeks on a western diet containing 0.15% cholesterol, plasma triglyceride levels in Gpihbp1−/− mice were 10,000–12,000 mg/dl. When 0.005% ezetimibe was added to the diet to block cholesterol absorption, Lpl expression in the liver was reduced significantly, and the plasma triglyceride levels were significantly higher (>15,000 mg/dl). We also assessed plasma triglyceride levels in Gpihbp1−/− mice fed western diets containing either high (1.3%) or low (0.05%) amounts of cholesterol. The high-cholesterol diet significantly increased Lpl expression in the liver and lowered plasma triglyceride levels.
Treatment of Gpihbp1−/− mice with ezetimibe lowers Lpl expression in the liver and increases plasma triglyceride levels. A high-cholesterol diet had the opposite effects. Thus, cholesterol intake modulates plasma triglyceride levels in Gpihbp1−/− mice.
lipoprotein lipase; chylomicronemia; hypertriglyceridemia; GPIHBP1
In analyzing the sequence tags for mutant mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell lines in BayGenomics (a mouse gene-trapping resource), we identified a novel gene, Agpat6, with sequence similarities to previously characterized glycerolipid acyltransferases. Agpat6’s closest family member is another novel gene that we have provisionally designated Agpat8. Both Agpat6 and Agpat8 are conserved from plants, nematodes, and flies to mammals. AGPAT6, which is predicted to contain multiple membrane-spanning helices, is found exclusively within the endoplasmic reticulum in mammalian cells. To gain insights into the in vivo importance of Agpat6, we used the Agpat6 ES cell line from BayGenomics to create Agpat6-deficient (Agpat6−/−) mice. Agpat6−/− mice lacked full-length Agpat6 transcripts, as judged by northern blots. One of the most striking phenotypes of Agpat6−/− mice was a defect in lactation. Pups nursed by Agpat6−/− mothers die perinatally. Normally, Agpat6 is expressed at high levels in the mammary epithelium of breast tissue, but not in the surrounding adipose tissue. Histological studies revealed that the aveoli and ducts of Agpat6−/− lactating mammary glands were underdeveloped, and there was a dramatic decrease in size and number of lipid droplets within mammary epithelial cells and ducts. Also, the milk from Agpat6−/− mice was markedly depleted in diacylglycerols and triacylglycerols. Thus, we identified a novel glycerolipid acyltransferase of the endoplasmic reticulum, AGPAT6, which is crucial for the production of milk fat by the mammary gland.
LPAAT; acyltransferase; transacylase; milk fat
Increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) as a result of decreased activities of mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC) complexes plays a role in the development of many inflammatory diseases, including atherosclerosis. Our previous studies established that paraoxonase 2 (PON2) possesses antiatherogenic properties and is associated with lower ROS levels. The aim of the present study was to determine the mechanism by which PON2 modulates ROS production. In this report, we demonstrate that PON2-def mice on the hyperlipidemic apolipoprotein E−/− background (PON2-def/apolipoprotein E−/−) develop exacerbated atherosclerotic lesions with enhanced mitochondrial oxidative stress. We show that PON2 protein is localized to the inner mitochondrial membrane, where it is found associated with respiratory complex III. Employing surface-plasmon-resonance, we demonstrate that PON2 binds with high affinity to coenzyme Q10, an important component of the ETC. Enhanced mitochondrial oxidative stress in PON2-def mice was accompanied by significantly reduced ETC complex I + III activities, oxygen consumption, and adenosine triphosphate levels in PON2-def mice. In contrast, overexpression of PON2 effectively protected mitochondria from antimycin- or oligomycin-mediated mitochondrial dysfunction. Our results illustrate that the antiatherogenic effects of PON2 are, in part, mediated by the role of PON2 in mitochondrial function. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 14, 341–351.
Nur77 is an orphan nuclear receptor with pleotropic functions. Previous studies have identified Nur77 as a transcriptional regulator of glucose utilization genes in skeletal muscle and gluconeogenesis in liver. However, the net functional impact of these pathways is unknown. To examine the consequence of Nur77 signaling for glucose metabolism in vivo, we challenged Nur77 null mice with high-fat feeding.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
Wild-type and Nur77 null mice were fed a high-fat diet (60% calories from fat) for 3 months. We determined glucose tolerance, tissue-specific insulin sensitivity, oxygen consumption, muscle and liver lipid content, muscle insulin signaling, and expression of glucose and lipid metabolism genes.
Mice with genetic deletion of Nur77 exhibited increased susceptibility to diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance. Hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp studies revealed greater high-fat diet–induced insulin resistance in both skeletal muscle and liver of Nur77 null mice compared with controls. Loss of Nur77 expression in skeletal muscle impaired insulin signaling and markedly reduced GLUT4 protein expression. Muscles lacking Nur77 also exhibited increased triglyceride content and accumulation of multiple even-chained acylcarnitine species. In the liver, Nur77 deletion led to hepatic steatosis and enhanced expression of lipogenic genes, likely reflecting the lipogenic effect of hyperinsulinemia.
Collectively, these data demonstrate that loss of Nur77 influences systemic glucose metabolism and highlight the physiological contribution of muscle Nur77 to this regulatory pathway.
Three lipid phosphate phosphatases (LPPs) regulate cell signaling by modifying the concentrations of a variety of lipid phosphates versus their dephosphorylated products. In particular, the LPPs are normally considered to regulate signaling by the phospholipase D (PLD) pathway by converting phosphatidate (PA) to diacylglycerol (DAG). LPP activities do modulate the accumulations of PA and DAG following PLD activation, but this could also involve an effect upstream of PLD activation. The active sites of the LPPs are on the exterior surface of plasma membranes, or on the luminal surface of internal membranes. Consequently, the actions of the LPPs in metabolizing PA formed by PLD1 or PLD2 should depend on the access of this substrate to the active site of the LPPs. Alternatively, PA generated on the cytosolic surface of membranes should be readily accessible to the family of specific phosphatidate phosphatases, namely the lipins. Presently, there is only indirect evidence for the lipins participating in cell signaling following PLD activation. So far, we know relatively little about how individual LPPs and specific phosphatidate phosphatases (lipins) modulate cell signaling through controlling the turnover of bioactive lipids that are formed after PLD activation.
Diacylglycerol; lysophosphatidate; phosphatidate; phospholipase D; triacylglycerol synthesis
Triglyceride synthesis in most mammalian tissues involves the sequential addition of fatty acids to a glycerol backbone, with unique enzymes required to catalyze each acylation step. Acylation at the sn-2 position requires 1-acylglycerol-3-phosphate O-acyltransferase (AGPAT) activity. To date, seven Agpat genes have been identified based on activity and/or sequence similarity, but their physiological functions have not been well established. We have generated a mouse model deficient in AGPAT6, which is normally expressed at high levels in brown adipose tissue (BAT), white adipose tissue (WAT), and liver. Agpat6-deficient mice exhibit a 25% reduction in body weight and resistance to both diet-induced and genetically induced obesity. The reduced body weight is associated with increased energy expenditure, reduced triglyceride accumulation in BAT and WAT, reduced white adipocyte size, and lack of adipose tissue in the subdermal region. In addition, the fatty acid composition of triacylglycerol, diacylglycerol, and phospholipid is altered, with proportionally greater polyunsaturated fatty acids at the expense of monounsaturated fatty acids. Thus, Agpat6 plays a unique role in determining triglyceride content and composition in adipose tissue and liver that cannot be compensated by other members of the Agpat family.
acyltransferase; gene-trap; adipose tissue; energy expenditure; 1-acylglycerol-3-phosphate O-acyltransferase
Purpose of review
The family of three lipin proteins act as phosphatidate phosphatase (PAP) enzymes required for glycerolipid biosynthesis, and also as transcriptional coactivators that regulate expression of lipid metabolism genes. The genes for lipin-1, lipin-2 and lipin-3 are expressed in key metabolic tissues, including adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, and liver, but the physiological functions of each member of the family have not been fully elucidated. Here we examine the most recent studies that provide information about the roles of lipin proteins in metabolism and human disease.
Recent studies have identified mutations that cause lipin-1 or lipin-2 deficiency in humans, leading to acute myoglobinuria in childhood or the inflammatory disorder Majeed syndrome, respectively. The effects of lipin-1 deficiency appear to include both the loss of glycerolipid building blocks and the accumulation of lipid intermediates that disrupt cellular function. Several studies have demonstrated that polymorphisms in the LPIN1 and LPIN2 genes are associated with metabolic disease traits, including insulin sensitivity, diabetes, blood pressure, and response to thiazolidinedione drugs. Furthermore, lipin-1 expression levels in adipose tissue and/or liver are positively correlated with insulin sensitivity. Studies of lipin-1 in adipocytes have shed some light on its relationship with insulin sensitivity.
Lipin-1 and lipin-2 are required for normal lipid homeostasis, and have unique physiological roles. Future studies, for example using engineered mouse models, will be required to fully elucidate their specific roles in normal physiology and disease.
triglyceride; phosphatidic acid phosphatase; transcriptional coactivator; lipodystrophy; obesity; insulin resistance; myopathy
The prevalence of obesity in the western world has focused attention on factors that influence triglyceride biosynthesis, storage, and utilization. Members of the lipin protein family have a newly discovered enzymatic role in triglyceride and phospholipid biosynthesis as a phosphatidate phosphatase, and also act as an inducible transcriptional coactivator in conjunction with PGC-1α and PPARα. Through these activities, the founding member of the family, lipin-1, influences lipid metabolism and glucose homeostasis in diverse tissues including adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, and liver. The physiological roles of lipin-2 and lipin-3 are less well defined, but are likely to carry out similar functions in glycerolipid biosynthesis and gene expression in a distinct tissue distribution.
adipose tissue; ipodystrophy; obesity; triaclyglycerol; phosphatidate phosphatase; transcriptional coactivator
In addition to the hallmark neurological manifestations of Huntington's disease (HD), weight loss with metabolic dysfunction is often observed in the later stages of disease progression and is associated with poor prognosis. The mechanism for weight loss in HD is unknown. Using two mouse models of HD, the R6/2 transgenic and CAG140 knock-in mouse strains, we demonstrate that adipose tissue dysfunction is detectable at early ages and becomes more pronounced as the disease progresses. Adipocytes acquire a ‘de-differentiated’ phenotype characterized by impaired expression of fat storage genes. In addition, HD mice exhibit reduced levels of leptin and adiponectin, adipose tissue-derived hormones that regulate food intake and glucose metabolism. Importantly, some of these changes occur prior to weight loss and development of some of the characteristic neurological symptoms. We demonstrate that impaired gene expression and lipid accumulation in adipocytes can be recapitulated by expression of an inducible mutant huntingtin transgene in an adipocyte cell line and that mutant huntingtin inhibits transcriptional activity of the PGC-1α co-activator in adipocytes, which may contribute to aberrant gene expression. Thus, our findings indicate that mutant huntingtin has direct detrimental effects in cell types other than neurons. The results also indicate that circulating adipose-tissue-derived hormones may be accessible markers for HD prognosis and progression and suggest that adipose tissue may be a useful therapeutic target to improve standard of life for HD patients.
Metabolic syndrome (MetSyn) is a group of metabolic conditions that occur together and promote the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes. Recent genome-wide association studies have identified several novel susceptibility genes for MetSyn traits, and studies in rodent models have provided important molecular insights. However, as yet, only a small fraction of the genetic component is known. Systems-based approaches that integrate genomic, molecular and physiological data are complementing traditional genetic and biochemical approaches to more fully address the complexity of MetSyn.
Elucidation of the metabolic pathways of triacylglycerol (TAG) synthesis is critical to the understanding of chronic metabolic disorders such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. sn-Glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase (GPAT) and sn-1-acylglycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase (AGPAT) catalyze the first and second steps in de novo TAG synthesis. AGPAT6 is one of eight AGPAT isoforms identified through sequence homology, but the enzyme activity for AGPAT6 has not been confirmed. We found that in liver and brown adipose tissue from Agpat6-deficient (Agpat6−/−) mice, N-ethylmaleimide (NEM)-sensitive GPAT specific activity was 65% lower than in tissues from wild-type mice, but AGPAT specific activity was similar. Overexpression of Agpat6 in Cos-7 cells increased an NEM-sensitive GPAT specific activity, but AGPAT specific activity was not increased. Agpat6 and Gpat1 overexpression in Cos-7 cells increased the incorporation of [14C]oleate into diacylglycerol (DAG) or into DAG and TAG, respectively, suggesting that the lysophosphatidic acid, phosphatidic acid, and DAG intermediates initiated by each of these isoforms lie in different cellular pools. Together, these data show that “Agpat6−/− mice” are actually deficient in a novel NEM-sensitive GPAT, GPAT4, and indicate that the alterations in lipid metabolism in adipose tissue, liver, and mammary epithelium of these mice are attributable to the absence of GPAT4
triacylglycerol; phospholipid; lipodystrophy; acyl-coenzyme A; steatosis; sn-l-acylglycerol-3-phosphate O-acyltransferase-deficient mice
In this issue of the JCI, Semple and colleagues report phenotypic evaluation of patients with a germline mutation in the gene encoding serine/threonine kinase AKT2 (see the related article beginning on page 315). Their findings support the idea that the postreceptor actions of insulin in the liver — suppression of gluconeogenesis and stimulation of lipogenesis — are mediated through divergent pathways that can be uncoupled. The results appear to refine the arrangement of crucial steps along these pathways and show how comprehensive study of the phenotype, “deep phenotyping,” of patients who carry rare mutations might complement other types of experiments to elucidate complex pathways and mechanisms.