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2.  Identification of Novel Type 2 Diabetes Candidate Genes Involved in the Crosstalk between the Mitochondrial and the Insulin Signaling Systems 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(12):e1003046.
Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) is a highly prevalent chronic metabolic disease with strong co-morbidity with obesity and cardiovascular diseases. There is growing evidence supporting the notion that a crosstalk between mitochondria and the insulin signaling cascade could be involved in the etiology of T2D and insulin resistance. In this study we investigated the molecular basis of this crosstalk by using systems biology approaches. We combined, filtered, and interrogated different types of functional interaction data, such as direct protein–protein interactions, co-expression analyses, and metabolic and signaling dependencies. As a result, we constructed the mitochondria-insulin (MITIN) network, which highlights 286 genes as candidate functional linkers between these two systems. The results of internal gene expression analysis of three independent experimental models of mitochondria and insulin signaling perturbations further support the connecting roles of these genes. In addition, we further assessed whether these genes are involved in the etiology of T2D using the genome-wide association study meta-analysis from the DIAGRAM consortium, involving 8,130 T2D cases and 38,987 controls. We found modest enrichment of genes associated with T2D amongst our linker genes (p = 0.0549), including three already validated T2D SNPs and 15 additional SNPs, which, when combined, were collectively associated to increased fasting glucose levels according to MAGIC genome wide meta-analysis (p = 8.12×10−5). This study highlights the potential of combining systems biology, experimental, and genome-wide association data mining for identifying novel genes and related variants that increase vulnerability to complex diseases.
Author Summary
It has been shown that the crosstalk between insulin signaling and the mitochondria may be involved in the etiology of type 2 diabetes. In order to characterize the molecular basis of this crosstalk, we mined and filtered several interaction databases of different natures, including protein–protein interactions, gene co-expression, signaling, and metabolic pathway interactions, to identify reliable direct and indirect interactions between insulin signaling cascade and mitochondria genes. This allowed us to identify 286 genes that are associated simultaneously with insulin signaling and mitochondrial genes and therefore could act as a molecular bridge between both systems. We performed in vitro and in vivo experiments where the insulin signaling or the mitochondrial function were disrupted, and we found deregulation of these connecting genes. Finally, we found that common variants in genomic regions where these genes lie are enriched for genetic associations with type 2 diabetes and glycemic traits according to large genome-wide association meta-analyses. In summary, we reconstructed the network implicated in the crosstalk between the mitochondria and the insulin signaling and provide a list of genes connecting both systems. We also propose new potential type 2 diabetes candidate genes.
PMCID: PMC3516534  PMID: 23236286
3.  Deletion of the metabolic transcriptional coactivator PGC1β induces cardiac arrhythmia 
Cardiovascular Research  2011;92(1):29-38.
Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivators PGC1α and PGC1β modulate mitochondrial biogenesis and energy homeostasis. The function of these transcriptional coactivators is impaired in obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. We searched for transcriptomic, lipidomic, and electrophysiological alterations in PGC1β−/− hearts potentially associated with increased arrhythmic risk in metabolic diseases.
Methods and results
Microarray analysis in mouse PGC1β−/− hearts confirmed down-regulation of genes related to oxidative phosphorylation and the electron transport chain and up-regulation of hypertrophy- and hypoxia-related genes. Lipidomic analysis showed increased levels of the pro-arrhythmic and pro-inflammatory lipid, lysophosphatidylcholine. PGC1β−/− mouse electrocardiograms showed irregular heartbeats and an increased incidence of polymorphic ventricular tachycardia following isoprenaline infusion. Langendorff-perfused PGC1β−/− hearts showed action potential alternans, early after-depolarizations, and ventricular tachycardia. PGC1β−/− ventricular myocytes showed oscillatory resting potentials, action potentials with early and delayed after-depolarizations, and burst firing during sustained current injection. They showed abnormal diastolic Ca2+ transients, whose amplitude and frequency were increased by isoprenaline, and Ca2+ currents with negatively shifted inactivation characteristics, with increased window currents despite unaltered levels of CACNA1C RNA transcripts. Inwardly and outward rectifying K+ currents were all increased. Quantitiative RT-PCR demonstrated increased SCN5A, KCNA5, RYR2, and Ca2+-calmodulin dependent protein kinase II expression.
PGC1β−/− hearts showed a lysophospholipid-induced cardiac lipotoxicity and impaired bioenergetics accompanied by an ion channel remodelling and altered Ca2+ homeostasis, converging to produce a ventricular arrhythmic phenotype particularly during adrenergic stress. This could contribute to the increased cardiac mortality associated with both metabolic and cardiac disease attributable to lysophospholipid accumulation.
PMCID: PMC3172981  PMID: 21632884
Mitochondria; Cardiac arrhythmia; Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator 1β; Metabolic disease; Lysophosphatidylcholine
4.  Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor γ-Dependent Regulation of Lipolytic Nodes and Metabolic Flexibility 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2012;32(8):1555-1565.
Optimal lipid storage and mobilization are essential for efficient adipose tissue. Nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) regulates adipocyte differentiation and lipid deposition, but its role in lipolysis and dysregulation in obesity is not well defined. This investigation aimed to understand the molecular impact of dysfunctional PPARγ on the lipolytic axis and to explore whether these defects are also confirmed in common forms of human obesity. For this purpose, we used the P465L PPARγ mouse as a model of dysfunctional PPARγ that recapitulates the human pparγ mutation (P467L). We demonstrated that defective PPARγ impairs catecholamine-induced lipolysis. This abnormal lipolytic response is exacerbated by a state of positive energy balance in leptin-deficient ob/ob mice. We identified the protein kinase A (PKA) network as a PPARγ-dependent regulatory node of the lipolytic response. Specifically, defective PPARγ is associated with decreased basal expression of prkaca (PKAcatα) and d-akap1, the lipase genes Pnplaz (ATGL) and Lipe (HSL), and lipid droplet protein genes fsp27 and adrp in vivo and in vitro. Our data indicate that PPARγ is required for activation of the lipolytic regulatory network, dysregulation of which is an important feature of obesity-induced insulin resistance in humans.
PMCID: PMC3318581  PMID: 22310664
5.  Ablation of PGC1 beta prevents mTOR dependent endoplasmic reticulum stress response 
Experimental Neurology  2012;237(2):396-406.
Mitochondria dysfunction contributes to the pathophysiology of obesity, diabetes, neurodegeneration and ageing. The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator-1β (PGC-1β) coordinates mitochondrial biogenesis and function as well as fatty acid metabolism. It has been suggested that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress may be one of the mechanisms linking mitochondrial dysfunction and these pathologies. Here we investigate whether PGC-1β ablation affects the ER stress response induced by specific nutritional and pharmacological challenges in the CNS. By using flow cytometry, western blot, real time PCR and several pharmacological and nutritional interventions in PGC-1β knock out and WT mice, we confirmed that PGC-1β coordinates mitochondria function in brain and reported for the first time that a) ablation of PGC-1β is associated with constitutive activation of mTORC1 pathway associated with increased basal GRP78 protein levels in hypothalamus and cortex of animals fed chow diet; and b) in animals fed chronically with high fat diet (HFD) or high protein diet (HPD), we observed a failure to appropriately induce ER stress response in the absence of PGC-1β, associated with an increase in mTOR pathway phosphorylation. This contrasted with the appropriate upregulation of ER stress response observed in wild type littermates. Additionally, inefficient in vitro induction of ER stress by thapsigargin seems result in apoptotic neuronal cell death in PGC-1β KO. Our data indicate that PGC-1β is required for a neuronal ER response to nutritional stress imposed by HFD and HPD diets and that genetic ablation of PGC-1β might increase the susceptibility to neuronal damage and cell death.
► The PGC-1β coordinates mitochondrial function and fatty acid metabolism. ► Ablation of PGC-1β associates with mTORC1 activation and basal increase of GRP78. ► Metabolic stress results in inefficient GRP78 increase in PGC-1β KO mice.
PMCID: PMC3549498  PMID: 22771762
PGC 1 beta; Endoplasmic reticulum stress; Mitochondria; mTOR; Amino acids; Brain
6.  BMP8B Increases Brown Adipose Tissue Thermogenesis through Both Central and Peripheral Actions 
Cell  2012;149(4):871-885.
Thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue (BAT) is fundamental to energy balance and is also relevant for humans. Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) regulate adipogenesis, and, here, we describe a role for BMP8B in the direct regulation of thermogenesis. BMP8B is induced by nutritional and thermogenic factors in mature BAT, increasing the response to noradrenaline through enhanced p38MAPK/CREB signaling and increased lipase activity. Bmp8b−/− mice exhibit impaired thermogenesis and reduced metabolic rate, causing weight gain despite hypophagia. BMP8B is also expressed in the hypothalamus, and Bmp8b−/− mice display altered neuropeptide levels and reduced phosphorylation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), indicating an anorexigenic state. Central BMP8B treatment increased sympathetic activation of BAT, dependent on the status of AMPK in key hypothalamic nuclei. Our results indicate that BMP8B is a thermogenic protein that regulates energy balance in partnership with hypothalamic AMPK. BMP8B may offer a mechanism to specifically increase energy dissipation by BAT.
Graphical Abstract
► BMP8B is expressed in BAT and is regulated in response to thermogenic stimuli ► BMP8B increases the thermogenic response of BAT to adrenergic stimulation ► Loss of BMP8B substantially increases susceptibility to diet-induced obesity ► BMP8B acts in the CNS to increase SNS activation of thermogenesis
Cold exposure and a high-fat diet trigger BMP8 signaling in brown adipose tissue and in the brain to boost energy expenditure.
PMCID: PMC3383997  PMID: 22579288
7.  Association of Lipidome Remodeling in the Adipocyte Membrane with Acquired Obesity in Humans 
PLoS Biology  2011;9(6):e1000623.
The authors describe a new approach to studying cellular lipid profiles and propose a compensatory mechanism that may help maintain the normal membrane function of adipocytes in the context of obesity.
Identification of early mechanisms that may lead from obesity towards complications such as metabolic syndrome is of great interest. Here we performed lipidomic analyses of adipose tissue in twin pairs discordant for obesity but still metabolically compensated. In parallel we studied more evolved states of obesity by investigating a separated set of individuals considered to be morbidly obese. Despite lower dietary polyunsaturated fatty acid intake, the obese twin individuals had increased proportions of palmitoleic and arachidonic acids in their adipose tissue, including increased levels of ethanolamine plasmalogens containing arachidonic acid. Information gathered from these experimental groups was used for molecular dynamics simulations of lipid bilayers combined with dependency network analysis of combined clinical, lipidomics, and gene expression data. The simulations suggested that the observed lipid remodeling maintains the biophysical properties of lipid membranes, at the price, however, of increasing their vulnerability to inflammation. Conversely, in morbidly obese subjects, the proportion of plasmalogens containing arachidonic acid in the adipose tissue was markedly decreased. We also show by in vitro Elovl6 knockdown that the lipid network regulating the observed remodeling may be amenable to genetic modulation. Together, our novel approach suggests a physiological mechanism by which adaptation of adipocyte membranes to adipose tissue expansion associates with positive energy balance, potentially leading to higher vulnerability to inflammation in acquired obesity. Further studies will be needed to determine the cause of this effect.
Author Summary
Obesity is characterized by excess body fat, which is predominantly stored in the adipose tissue. When adipose tissue expands too much it stops storing lipid appropriately. The excess lipid accumulates in organs such as muscle, liver, and pancreas, causing metabolic disease. In this study, we aim to identify factors that cause adipose tissue to malfunction when it reaches its limit of expansion. We performed lipidomic analyses of human adipose tissue in twin pairs discordant for obesity—that is, one of the twins was lean and one was obese—but still metabolically healthy. We identified multiple changes in membrane phospholipids. Using computer modeling, we show that “lean” and “obese” membrane lipid compositions have the same physical properties despite their different compositions. We hypothesize that this represents allostasis—changes in lipid membrane composition in obesity occur to protect the physical properties of the membranes. However, protective changes cannot occur without a cost, and accordingly we demonstrate that switching to the “obese” lipid composition is associated with higher levels of adipose tissue inflammation. In a separate group of metabolically unhealthy obese individuals we investigated how the processes that regulate the “lean” and “obese” lipid profiles are changed. To determine how these lipid membrane changes are regulated we constructed an in silico network model that identified key control points and potential molecular players. We validated this network by performing genetic manipulations in cell models. Therapeutic targeting of this network may open new opportunities for the prevention or treatment of obesity-related metabolic complications.
PMCID: PMC3110175  PMID: 21666801
8.  Defective peroxisomal proliferators activated receptor gamma activity due to dominant-negative mutation synergizes with hypertension to accelerate cardiac fibrosis in mice 
European Journal of Heart Failure  2009;11(6):533-541.
Humans with inactivating mutations in peroxisomal proliferators activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) typically develop a complex metabolic syndrome characterized by insulin resistance, diabetes, lipodystrophy, hypertension, and dyslipidaemia which is likely to increase their cardiovascular risk. Despite evidence that the activation of PPARγ may prevent cardiac fibrosis and hypertrophy, recent evidence has suggested that pharmacological activation of PPARγ causes increased cardiovascular mortality. In this study, we investigated the effects of defective PPARγ function on the development of cardiac fibrosis and hypertrophy in a murine model carrying a human dominant-negative mutation in PPARγ.
Methods and results
Mice with a dominant-negative point mutation in PPARγ (P465L) and their wild-type (WT) littermates were treated with either subcutaneous angiotensin II (AngII) infusion or saline for 2 weeks. Heterozygous P465L and WT mice developed a similar increase in systolic blood pressure, but the mutant mice developed significantly more severe cardiac fibrosis to AngII that correlated with increased expression of profibrotic genes. Both groups similarly increased the heart weight to body weight ratio compared with saline-treated controls. There were no differences in fibrosis between saline-treated WT and P465L mice.
These results show synergistic pathogenic effects between the presence of defective PPARγ and AngII-induced hypertension and suggest that patients with PPARγ mutation and hypertension may need more aggressive therapeutic measures to reduce the risk of accelerated cardiac fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC2686026  PMID: 19395708
Hypertension; Left ventricular hypertrophy; Interstitial fibrosis; Dominant-negative PPARγ; Lipodystrophy

Results 1-8 (8)