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1.  The Link Between Nutritional Status and Insulin Sensitivity Is Dependent on the Adipocyte-Specific Peroxisome Proliferator–Activated Receptor-γ2 Isoform 
Diabetes  2005;54(6):1706-1716.
The nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor-γ (PPARγ) is critically required for adipogenesis. PPARγ exists as two isoforms, γ1 and γ2. PPARγ2 is the more potent adipogenic isoform in vitro and is normally restricted to adipose tissues, where it is regulated more by nutritional state than PPARγ1. To elucidate the relevance of the PPARγ2 in vivo, we generated a mouse model in which the PPARγ2 isoform was specifically disrupted. Despite similar weight, body composition, food intake, energy expenditure, and adipose tissue morphology, male mice lacking the γ2 isoform were more insulin resistant than wild-type animals when fed a regular diet. These results indicate that insulin resistance associated with ablation of PPARγ2 is not the result of lipodystrophy and suggests a specific role for PPARγ2 in maintaining insulin sensitivity independently of its effects on adipogenesis. Furthermore, PPARγ2 knockout mice fed a high-fat diet did not become more insulin resistant than those on a normal diet, despite a marked increase in their mean adipocyte cell size. These findings suggest that PPARγ2 is required for the maintenance of normal insulin sensitivity in mice but also raises the intriguing notion that PPARγ2 may be necessary for the adverse effects of a high-fat diet on carbohydrate metabolism.
PMCID: PMC4304004  PMID: 15919792
2.  Secreted frizzled-related protein 1 regulates adipose tissue expansion and is dysregulated in severe obesity 
The Wnt/β-catenin signalling network offers potential targets to diagnose and uncouple obesity from its metabolic complications. Here we investigate the role of the Wnt antagonist, secreted Frizzled related protein 1 (SFRP1) in promoting adipogenesis in vitro and adipose tissue expansion in vivo.
We use a combination of human and murine, in vivo and in vitro models of adipogenesis, adipose tissue expansion and obesity-related metabolic syndrome to profile the involvement of SFRP1.
Secreted Frizzled related protein 1 (SFRP1) is expressed in both murine and human mature adipocytes. The expression of SFRP1 is induced during in vitro adipogenesis and SFRP1 is preferentially expressed in mature adipocytes in human adipose tissue. Constitutive ectopic expression of SFRP1 is proadipogenic and inhibits the Wnt/β-catenin signalling pathway. In vivo endogenous levels of adipose SFRP1 are regulated in line with proadipogenic states. However, in longitudinal studies of high fat diet-fed mice we observed a dynamic temporal but biphasic regulation of endogenous SFRP1. In agreement with this profile we observed that SFRP1 expression in human tissues peaks in patients with mild obesity and gradually falls in morbidly obese subjects.
Our results suggest that SFRP1 is an endogenous modulator of Wnt/β-catenin signalling and participates in the paracrine regulation of human adipogenesis. The reduced adipose expression of SFRP1 in morbid obesity and its knock-on effect to prevent further adipose tissue expansion may contribute to the development of metabolic complications in these individuals.
PMCID: PMC4266104  PMID: 20514047
Obesity; Metabolic syndrome; Adipose tissue; Adipogenesis; Wnt Signalling
3.  Adaptive Changes of the Insig1/SREBP1/SCD1 Set Point Help Adipose Tissue to Cope With Increased Storage Demands of Obesity 
Diabetes  2013;62(11):3697-3708.
The epidemic of obesity imposes unprecedented challenges on human adipose tissue (WAT) storage capacity that may benefit from adaptive mechanisms to maintain adipocyte functionality. Here, we demonstrate that changes in the regulatory feedback set point control of Insig1/SREBP1 represent an adaptive response that preserves WAT lipid homeostasis in obese and insulin-resistant states. In our experiments, we show that Insig1 mRNA expression decreases in WAT from mice with obesity-associated insulin resistance and from morbidly obese humans and in in vitro models of adipocyte insulin resistance. Insig1 downregulation is part of an adaptive response that promotes the maintenance of SREBP1 maturation and facilitates lipogenesis and availability of appropriate levels of fatty acid unsaturation, partially compensating the antilipogenic effect associated with insulin resistance. We describe for the first time the existence of this adaptive mechanism in WAT, which involves Insig1/SREBP1 and preserves the degree of lipid unsaturation under conditions of obesity-induced insulin resistance. These adaptive mechanisms contribute to maintain lipid desaturation through preferential SCD1 regulation and facilitate fat storage in WAT, despite on-going metabolic stress.
PMCID: PMC3806615  PMID: 23919961
4.  A New Role for Lipocalin Prostaglandin D Synthase in the Regulation of Brown Adipose Tissue Substrate Utilization 
Diabetes  2012;61(12):3139-3147.
In this study, we define a new role for lipocalin prostaglandin D synthase (L-PGDS) in the control of metabolic fuel utilization by brown adipose tissue (BAT). We demonstrate that L-PGDS expression in BAT is positively correlated with BAT activity, upregulated by peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor γ coactivator 1α or 1β and repressed by receptor-interacting protein 140. Under cold-acclimated conditions, mice lacking L-PGDS had elevated reliance on carbohydrate to provide fuel for thermogenesis and had increased expression of genes regulating glycolysis and de novo lipogenesis in BAT. These transcriptional differences were associated with increased lipid content in BAT and a BAT lipid composition enriched with de novo synthesized lipids. Consistent with the concept that lack of L-PGDS increases glucose utilization, mice lacking L-PGDS had improved glucose tolerance after high-fat feeding. The improved glucose tolerance appeared to be independent of changes in insulin sensitivity, as insulin levels during the glucose tolerance test and insulin, leptin, and adiponectin levels were unchanged. Moreover, L-PGDS knockout mice exhibited increased expression of genes involved in thermogenesis and increased norepinephrine-stimulated glucose uptake to BAT, suggesting that sympathetically mediated changes in glucose uptake may have improved glucose tolerance. Taken together, these results suggest that L-PGDS plays an important role in the regulation of glucose utilization in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3501861  PMID: 22923471
5.  Assessment of brown adipose tissue function 
In this review we discuss practical considerations for the assessment of brown adipose tissue in rodent models, focusing on mice. The central aim of the review is to provide a critical appraisal of the utility of specialized techniques for assessing brown adipose tissue function in vivo. We cover several of the most common specialized methods for analysing brown adipose tissue function in vivo, including assessment of maximal thermogenic capacity by indirect calorimetry and the measurement of sympathetic tone to brown adipose tissue. While these techniques are powerful, they are not readily available to all laboratories; therefore we also cover several simple measurements that, particularly in combination, can be used to determine if a mouse model is likely to have alterations in brown adipose tissue function. Such techniques include: pair feeding, analysis of brown adipose tissue lipid content and mRNA and protein markers of brown adipose tissue activation.
PMCID: PMC3671177  PMID: 23760815
brown adipose tissue; BAT; maximal thermogenic capacity; adipose tissue; energy expenditure; cold exposure
6.  Below Thermoneutrality, Changes in Activity Do Not Drive Changes in Total Daily Energy Expenditure between Groups of Mice 
Cell Metabolism  2012;16(5):665-671.
In this study we investigated the relationship between activity and energy expenditure (EE) in mice. By determining the relationship between activity and EE over a 24 hr period in an individual mouse, activity was calculated to account for 26.6% ± 1.1% of total EE at 30°C. However, when comparing across multiple mice, only 9.53% ± 1.1% of EE from activity appeared to be independent of other components involved in the thermogenic response, suggesting other metabolic processes may mask the contribution of activity to EE. In line with this concept, below thermoneutrality mice still expended a substantial amount of energy on activity; however, at 24°C, 20°C, or 5°C, no independent effect of EE from activity on total daily EE could be detected. Overall these results suggest that when studying mice at temperatures below thermoneutrality, activity is unlikely to explain differences in EE between groups of animals.
► Under standard lab conditions, more-active mice do not expend more energy
PMCID: PMC3556741  PMID: 23140644
7.  Lipocalin Prostaglandin D Synthase and PPARγ2 Coordinate to Regulate Carbohydrate and Lipid Metabolism In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39512.
Mice lacking Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor γ2 (PPARγ2) have unexpectedly normal glucose tolerance and mild insulin resistance. Mice lacking PPARγ2 were found to have elevated levels of Lipocalin prostaglandin D synthase (L-PGDS) expression in BAT and subcutaneous white adipose tissue (WAT). To determine if induction of L-PGDS was compensating for a lack of PPARγ2, we crossed L-PGDS KO mice to PPARγ2 KO mice to generate Double Knock Out mice (DKO). Using DKO mice we demonstrated a requirement of L-PGDS for maintenance of subcutaneous WAT (scWAT) function. In scWAT, DKO mice had reduced expression of thermogenic genes, the de novo lipogenic program and the lipases ATGL and HSL. Despite the reduction in markers of lipolysis in scWAT, DKO mice had a normal metabolic rate and elevated serum FFA levels compared to L-PGDS KO alone. Analysis of intra-abdominal white adipose tissue (epididymal WAT) showed elevated expression of mRNA and protein markers of lipolysis in DKO mice, suggesting that DKO mice may become more reliant on intra-abdominal WAT to supply lipid for oxidation. This switch in depot utilisation from subcutaneous to epididymal white adipose tissue was associated with a worsening of whole organism metabolic function, with DKO mice being glucose intolerant, and having elevated serum triglyceride levels compared to any other genotype. Overall, L-PGDS and PPARγ2 coordinate to regulate carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3390315  PMID: 22792179
8.  Nothing Iffy about HIF in the Hypothalamus 
PLoS Biology  2011;9(7):e1001116.
Two crucial biological processes are (1) the sensing and coordination of responses to low oxygen levels and (2) the control of food intake and energy expenditure. The hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) family of proteins is known to regulate responses to low oxygen, whereas neuropeptides derived from proopiomelanocortin (POMC) are implicated in the control of food intake and energy expenditure. It is now becoming apparent that these two apparently disparate processes may be linked, with the exciting discovery that HIF proteins can act in the brain to regulate food intake and energy expenditure as reported in the current issue of PLoS Biology. This primer discusses the traditional role of HIF proteins in terms of responding to oxygen levels in the periphery and also their new role in coordinating responses to nutrients in the brain through regulation of POMC.
PMCID: PMC3144187  PMID: 21814494
9.  Genome-Wide Profiling of MicroRNAs in Adipose Mesenchymal Stem Cell Differentiation and Mouse Models of Obesity 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21305.
In recent years, there has been accumulating evidence that microRNAs are key regulator molecules of gene expression. The cellular processes that are regulated by microRNAs include e.g. cell proliferation, programmed cell death and cell differentiation. Adipocyte differentiation is a highly regulated cellular process for which several important regulating factors have been discovered, but still not all are known to fully understand the underlying mechanisms. In the present study, we analyzed the expression of 597 microRNAs during the differentiation of mouse mesenchymal stem cells into terminally differentiated adipocytes by real-time RT-PCR. In total, 66 miRNAs were differentially expressed in mesenchymal stem cell-derived adipocytes compared to the undifferentiated progenitor cells. To further study the regulation of these 66 miRNAs in white adipose tissue in vivo and their dependence on PPARγ activity, mouse models of genetically or diet induced obesity as well as a mouse line expressing a dominant negative PPARγ mutant were employed.
PMCID: PMC3121761  PMID: 21731698
10.  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
11.  Dact1, a Nutritionally Regulated Preadipocyte Gene, Controls Adipogenesis by Coordinating the Wnt/β-Catenin Signaling Network 
Diabetes  2009;58(3):609-619.
OBJECTIVE—Wnt signaling inhibits adipogenesis, but its regulation, physiological relevance, and molecular effectors are poorly understood. Here, we identify the Wnt modulator Dapper1/Frodo1 (Dact1) as a new preadipocyte gene involved in the regulation of murine and human adipogenesis.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—Changes in Dact1 expression were investigated in three in vitro models of adipogenesis. In vitro gain- and loss-of-function studies were used to investigate the mechanism of Dact1 action during adipogenesis. The in vivo regulation of Dact1 and Wnt/β-catenin signaling were investigated in murine models of altered nutritional status, of pharmacological stimulation of in vivo adipogenesis, and during the development of dietary and genetic obesity.
RESULTS—Dact1 is a preadipocyte gene that decreases during adipogenesis. However, Dact1 knockdown impairs adipogenesis through activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, and this is reversed by treatment with the secreted Wnt antagonist, secreted Frizzled-related protein 1 (Sfrp1). In contrast, constitutive Dact1 overexpression promotes adipogenesis and confers resistance to Wnt ligand-induced antiadipogenesis through increased expression of endogenous Sfrps and reduced expression of Wnts. In vivo, in white adipose tissue, Dact1 and Wnt/β-catenin signaling also exhibit coordinated expression profiles in response to altered nutritional status, in response to pharmacological stimulation of in vivo adipogenesis, and during the development of dietary and genetic obesity.
CONCLUSIONS—Dact1 regulates adipogenesis through coordinated effects on gene expression that selectively alter intracellular and paracrine/autocrine components of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. These novel insights into the molecular mechanisms controlling adipose tissue plasticity provide a functional network with therapeutic potential against diseases, such as obesity and associated metabolic disorders.
PMCID: PMC2646059  PMID: 19073771
12.  The Human Lipodystrophy Gene BSCL2/Seipin May Be Essential for Normal Adipocyte Differentiation 
Diabetes  2008;57(8):2055-2060.
OBJECTIVE—Berardinelli-Seip congenital lipodystrophy type 2 (BSCL2) is a recessive disorder featuring near complete absence of adipose tissue. Remarkably, although the causative gene, BSCL2, has been known for several years, its molecular function and its role in adipose tissue development have not been elucidated. Therefore, we examined whether BSCL2 is involved in the regulation of adipocyte differentiation and the mechanism whereby pathogenic mutations in BSCL2 cause lipodystrophy.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—Following the characterization of BSCL2 expression in developing adipocytes, C3H10T1/2 mesenchymal stem cells were generated in which BSCL2 expression was knocked down using short hairpin RNA (shRNA). These cells were used to investigate whether BSCL2 is required for adipogenesis. BSCL2 constructs harboring pathogenic mutations known to cause lipodystrophy were also generated and characterized.
RESULTS—BSCL2 expression was strongly induced during adipocyte differentiation, and the induction of BSCL2 expression was essential for adipogenesis to occur. The initial induction of key adipogenic transcription factors, including peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor (PPAR)γ and CAAT/enhancer-binding protein-α, was preserved in cells lacking BSCL2. However, the expression of these critical factors was not sustained, suggesting that the activity of PPARγ was impaired. Moreover, expression of key genes mediating triglyceride synthesis, including AGPAT2, lipin 1, and DGAT2, was persistently reduced and lipid accumulation was inhibited. Analysis of pathogenic missense mutants of BSCL2 revealed that the amino acid substitution A212P causes aberrant targeting of BSCL2 within the cell, suggesting that subcellular localization of BSCL2 may be critical to its function.
CONCLUSIONS—This study demonstrates that BSCL2 is an essential, cell-autonomous regulator of adipogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2494687  PMID: 18458148
13.  Orexin expression is regulated by alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone 
Journal of neuroendocrinology  2007;19(9):703-707.
The hypothalamic melanocortin system plays a fundamental role in the regulation of energy homeostasis. Orexins (hypocretins) are also involved in a diverse range of physiological processes, including food intake. Previous evidence has suggested that hypothalamic orexin expression may be influenced by the central melanocortin system. Here, we studied orexin mRNA levels in Pomc−/− mice, a mouse model lacking all endogenously produced melanocortin peptides. Orexin expression in the lateral hypothalamus was significantly increased in corticosterone deficient Pomc−/− mice. Further, when circulating glucocorticoids were restored to levels within the physiological range, orexin expression remained elevated. However, ICV administration of the melanocortin α-MSH to Pomc−/− mice reduced orexin expression back down to WT levels. This was independent of the effects of α-MSH on food intake as in Pomc−/− mice pair-fed to α-MSH-treated animals elevated orexin expression persisted. These data indicate that α-MSH may play a role in the regulation of orexin expression in Pomc−/−, with an elevation in orexin levels contributing to the hyperphagia seen in these animals.
PMCID: PMC2637479  PMID: 17680885
Food intake; glucocorticoids; hypothalamus; melanocortins; orexins; proopiomelanocortin
14.  PPAR gamma 2 Prevents Lipotoxicity by Controlling Adipose Tissue Expandability and Peripheral Lipid Metabolism 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(4):e64.
Peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma 2 (PPARg2) is the nutritionally regulated isoform of PPARg. Ablation of PPARg2 in the ob/ob background, PPARg2−/− Lepob/Lepob (POKO mouse), resulted in decreased fat mass, severe insulin resistance, β-cell failure, and dyslipidaemia. Our results indicate that the PPARg2 isoform plays an important role, mediating adipose tissue expansion in response to positive energy balance. Lipidomic analyses suggest that PPARg2 plays an important antilipotoxic role when induced ectopically in liver and muscle by facilitating deposition of fat as relatively harmless triacylglycerol species and thus preventing accumulation of reactive lipid species. Our data also indicate that PPARg2 may be required for the β-cell hypertrophic adaptive response to insulin resistance. In summary, the PPARg2 isoform prevents lipotoxicity by (a) promoting adipose tissue expansion, (b) increasing the lipid-buffering capacity of peripheral organs, and (c) facilitating the adaptive proliferative response of β-cells to insulin resistance.
Author Summary
It is known that obesity is linked to type 2 diabetes, however how obesity causes insulin resistance and diabetes is not well understood. Some extremely obese people are not diabetic, while other less obese people develop severe insulin resistance and diabetes. We believe diabetes occurs when adipose tissue becomes “full,” and fat overflows into other organs such as liver, pancreas, and muscle, causing insulin resistance and diabetes. Peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma (PPARg) is essential for the development of adipose tissue and control of insulin sensitivity. PPARg2 is the isoform of PPARg regulated by nutrition. Here we investigate the role of PPARg2 under conditions of excess nutrients by removing the PPARg2 isoform in genetically obese mice, the POKO mouse. We report that removing PPARg2 decreases adipose tissue's capacity to expand and prevents the mouse from making as much fat as a normal obese mouse, despite eating similarly. Our studies suggest that PPARg plays an important antitoxic role when it is induced in liver, muscle, and beta cells by facilitating deposition of fat as relatively harmless lipids and thus prevents accumulation of toxic lipid species. We also show that PPARg2 may be involved in the adaptive response of beta cells to insulin resistance.
PMCID: PMC1857730  PMID: 17465682

Results 1-14 (14)