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1.  Concentrations of Insulin Glargine and Its Metabolites During Long-Term Insulin Therapy in Type 2 Diabetic Patients and Comparison of Effects of Insulin Glargine, Its Metabolites, IGF-I, and Human Insulin on Insulin and IGF-I Receptor Signaling 
Diabetes  2013;62(7):2539-2544.
We investigated 1) the ability of purified glargine (GLA), metabolites 1 (M1) and 2 (M2), IGF-I, and NPH insulin to activate the insulin receptor (IR)-A and IR-B and IGF-I receptor (IGF-IR) in vitro; 2) plasma concentrations of GLA, M1, and M2 during long-term insulin therapy in type 2 diabetic patients; and 3) IR-A and IR-B activation in vitro induced by serum from patients treated with GLA or NPH insulin. A total of 104 patients (age 56.3 ± 0.8 years, BMI 31.4 ± 0.5 kg/m2, and A1C 9.1 ± 0.1% [mean ± SE]) were randomized to GLA or NPH insulin therapy for 36 weeks. Plasma concentrations of GLA, M1, and M2 were determined by liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry assay. IR-A, IR-B, and IGF-IR autophosphorylation was induced by purified hormones or serum by kinase receptor activation assays. In vitro, M1 induced comparable IR-A, IR-B, and IGF-IR autophosphorylation (activation) as NPH insulin. After 36 weeks, M1 increased from undetectable (<0.2 ng/mL) to 1.5 ng/mL (0.9–2.1), while GLA and M2 remained undetectable. GLA dose correlated with M1 (r = 0.84; P < 0.001). Serum from patients treated with GLA or NPH insulin induced similar IR-A and IR-B activation. These data suggest that M1 rather than GLA mediates GLA effects and that compared with NPH insulin, GLA does not increase IGF-IR signaling during long-term insulin therapy in type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3712030  PMID: 23569175
2.  Prediction of non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease and liver fat content by serum molecular lipids 
Diabetologia  2013;56:2266-2274.
We examined whether analysis of lipids by ultra-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) coupled to MS allows the development of a laboratory test for non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease (NAFLD), and how a lipid-profile biomarker compares with the prediction of NAFLD and liver-fat content based on routinely available clinical and laboratory data.
We analysed the concentrations of molecular lipids by UPLC-MS in blood samples of 679 well-characterised individuals in whom liver-fat content was measured using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) or liver biopsy. The participants were divided into biomarker-discovery (n = 287) and validation (n = 392) groups to build and validate the diagnostic models, respectively.
Individuals with NAFLD had increased triacylglycerols with low carbon number and double-bond content while lysophosphatidylcholines and ether phospholipids were diminished in those with NAFLD. A serum-lipid signature comprising three molecular lipids (‘lipid triplet’) was developed to estimate the percentage of liver fat. It had a sensitivity of 69.1% and specificity of 73.8% when applied for diagnosis of NAFLD in the validation series. The usefulness of the lipid triplet was demonstrated in a weight-loss intervention study.
The liver-fat-biomarker signature based on molecular lipids may provide a non-invasive tool to diagnose NAFLD, in addition to highlighting lipid molecular pathways involved in the disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00125-013-2981-2) contains peer-reviewed but unedited supplementary material, which is available to authorised users.
PMCID: PMC3764317  PMID: 23824212
Lipidomics; Mass spectrometry; Non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease
3.  OSBP-Related Proteins (ORPs) in Human Adipose Depots and Cultured Adipocytes: Evidence for Impacts on the Adipocyte Phenotype 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45352.
Oxysterol-binding protein (OSBP) homologues, ORPs, are implicated in lipid homeostatic control, vesicle transport, and cell signaling. We analyzed here the quantity of ORP mRNAs in human subcutaneous (s.c.) and visceral adipose depots, as well as in the Simpson-Golabi-Behmel syndrome (SGBS) adipocyte cell model. All of the ORP mRNAs were present in the s.c and visceral adipose tissues, and the two depots shared an almost identical ORP mRNA expression pattern. SGBS adipocytes displayed a similar pattern, suggesting that the adipose tissue ORP expression pattern mainly derives from adipocytes. During SGBS cell adipogenic differentiation, ORP2, ORP3, ORP4, ORP7, and ORP8 mRNAs were down-regulated, while ORP11 was induced. To assess the impacts of ORPs on adipocyte differentiation, ORP3 and ORP8, proteins down-regulated during adipogenesis, were overexpressed in differentiating SGBS adipocytes, while ORP11, a protein induced during adipogenesis, was silenced. ORP8 overexpression resulted in reduced expression of the aP2 mRNA, while down-regulation of adiponectin and aP2 was observed in ORP11 silenced cells. Furthermore, ORP8 overexpression or silencing of ORP11 markedly decreased cellular triglyceride storage. These data identify the patterns of ORP expression in human adipose depots and SGBS adipocytes, and provide the first evidence for a functional impact of ORPs on the adipocyte phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3448648  PMID: 23028956
4.  Expression of ceramide-metabolising enzymes in subcutaneous and intra-abdominal human adipose tissue 
Inflammation and increased ceramide concentrations characterise adipose tissue of obese women with high liver fat content compared to equally obese women with normal liver fat content. The present study characterises enzymes involved in ceramide metabolism in subcutaneous and intra-abdominal adipose tissue.
Pathways leading to increased ceramide concentrations in inflamed versus non-inflamed adipose tissue were investigated by quantifying expression levels of key enzymes involved in ceramide metabolism. Sphingomyelinases (sphingomyelin phosphodiesterases SMPD1-3) were investigated further using immunohistochemistry to establish their location within adipose tissue, and their mRNA expression levels were determined in subcutaneous and intra-abdominal adipose tissue from both non-obese and obese subject.
Gene expression levels of sphingomyelinases, enzymes that hydrolyse sphingomyelin to ceramide, rather than enzymes involved in de novo ceramide synthesis, were higher in inflamed compared to non-inflamed adipose tissue of obese women (with high and normal liver fat contents respectively). Sphingomyelinases were localised to both macrophages and adipocytes, but also to blood vessels and to extracellular regions surrounding vessels within adipose tissue. Expression levels of SMPD3 mRNA correlated significantly with concentrations of different ceramides and sphingomyelins. In both non-obese and obese subjects SMPD3 mRNA levels were higher in the more inflamed intra-abdominal compared to the subcutaneous adipose tissue depot.
Generation of ceramides within adipose tissue as a result of sphingomyelinase action may contribute to inflammation in human adipose tissue.
PMCID: PMC3478226  PMID: 22974251
Adipose tissue; Ceramide; Human; Inflammation; Sphingomyelinase
5.  Effects of Exenatide on Measures of β-Cell Function After 3 Years in Metformin-Treated Patients With Type 2 Diabetes 
Diabetes Care  2011;34(9):2041-2047.
We previously showed that exenatide (EXE) enhanced insulin secretion after 1 year of treatment, relative to insulin glargine (GLAR), with a similar glucose-lowering action. These effects were not sustained after a 4-week off-drug period. This article reports the results after additional 2 years of exposure.
Sixty-nine metformin-treated patients with type 2 diabetes were randomized to EXE or GLAR. Forty-six patients entered the 2-year extension study in which they continued their allocated therapy. Thirty-six completed (EXE: n = 16; GLAR: n = 20) the 3-year exposure period. Insulin sensitivity (M value) and β-cell function were measured by euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp followed by hyperglycemic clamp with arginine stimulation at pretreatment (week 52) and 4 weeks after discontinuation of study medication (week 56 and week 172). First-phase glucose stimulated C-peptide secretion was adjusted for M value and calculated as the disposition index (DI).
At 3 years, EXE and GLAR resulted in similar levels of glycemic control: 6.6 ± 0.2% and 6.9 ± 0.2%, respectively (P = 0.186). EXE compared with GLAR significantly reduced body weight (−7.9 ± 1.8 kg; P < 0.001). After the 4-week off-drug period, EXE increased the M value by 39% (P = 0.006) while GLAR had no effect (P = 0.647). Following the 4-week off-drug period, the DI, compared with pretreatment, increased with EXE, but decreased with GLAR (1.43 ± 0.78 and −0.99 ± 0.65, respectively; P = 0.028).
EXE and GLAR sustained HbA1c over the 3-year treatment period, while EXE reduced body weight and GLAR increased body weight. Following the 3-year treatment with EXE, the DI was sustained after a 4-week off-drug period. These findings suggest a beneficial effect on β-cell health.
PMCID: PMC3161303  PMID: 21868779
6.  Comparison of Dorsocervical With Abdominal Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue in Patients With and Without Antiretroviral Therapy–Associated Lipodystrophy 
Diabetes  2011;60(7):1894-1900.
Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) is associated with lipodystrophy, i.e., loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue in the abdomen, limbs, and face and its accumulation intra-abdominally. No fat is lost dorsocervically and it can even accumulate in this region (buffalo hump). It is unknown how preserved dorsocervical fat differs from abdominal subcutaneous fat in HIV-1–infected cART-treated patients with (cART+LD+) and without (cART+LD−) lipodystrophy.
We used histology, microarray, PCR, and magnetic resonance imaging to compare dorsocervical and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue in cART+LD+ (n = 21) and cART+LD− (n = 11).
Albeit dorsocervical adipose tissue in cART+LD+ seems spared from lipoatrophy, its mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA; copies/cell) content was significantly lower (by 62%) than that of the corresponding tissue in cART+LD−. Expression of CD68 mRNA, a marker of macrophages, and numerous inflammatory genes in microarray were significantly lower in dorsocervical versus abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue. Genes with the greatest difference in expression between the two depots were those involved in regulation of transcription and regionalization (homeobox genes), irrespective of lipodystrophy status. There was negligible mRNA expression of uncoupling protein 1, a gene characteristic of brown adipose tissue, in either depot.
Because mtDNA is depleted even in the nonatrophic dorsocervical adipose tissue, it is unlikely that the cause of lipoatrophy is loss of mtDNA. Dorsocervical adipose tissue is less inflamed than lipoatrophic adipose tissue. It does not resemble brown adipose tissue. The greatest difference in gene expression between dorsocervical and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue is in expression of homeobox genes.
PMCID: PMC3121420  PMID: 21602514
7.  Adipose tissue gene expression analysis reveals changes in inflammatory, mitochondrial respiratory and lipid metabolic pathways in obese insulin-resistant subjects 
To get insight into molecular mechanisms underlying insulin resistance, we compared acute in vivo effects of insulin on adipose tissue transcriptional profiles between obese insulin-resistant and lean insulin-sensitive women.
Subcutaneous adipose tissue biopsies were obtained before and after 3 and 6 hours of intravenously maintained euglycemic hyperinsulinemia from 9 insulin-resistant and 11 insulin-sensitive females. Gene expression was measured using Affymetrix HG U133 Plus 2 microarrays and qRT-PCR. Microarray data and pathway analyses were performed with Chipster v1.4.2 and by using in-house developed nonparametric pathway analysis software.
The most prominent difference in gene expression of the insulin-resistant group during hyperinsulinemia was reduced transcription of nuclear genes involved in mitochondrial respiration (mitochondrial respiratory chain, GO:0001934). Inflammatory pathways with complement components (inflammatory response, GO:0006954) and cytokines (chemotaxis, GO:0042330) were strongly up-regulated in insulin-resistant as compared to insulin-sensitive subjects both before and during hyperinsulinemia. Furthermore, differences were observed in genes contributing to fatty acid, cholesterol and triglyceride metabolism (FATP2, ELOVL6, PNPLA3, SREBF1) and in genes involved in regulating lipolysis (ANGPTL4) between the insulin-resistant and -sensitive subjects especially during hyperinsulinemia.
The major finding of this study was lower expression of mitochondrial respiratory pathway and defective induction of lipid metabolism pathways by insulin in insulin-resistant subjects. Moreover, the study reveals several novel genes whose aberrant regulation is associated with the obese insulin-resistant phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3384471  PMID: 22471940
8.  Waist Circumference Adjusted for Body Mass Index and Intra-Abdominal Fat Mass 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e32213.
The association between waist circumference (WC) and mortality is particularly strong and direct when adjusted for body mass index (BMI). One conceivable explanation for this association is that WC adjusted for BMI is a better predictor of the presumably most harmful intra-abdominal fat mass (IAFM) than WC alone. We studied the prediction of abdominal subcutaneous fat mass (ASFM) and IAFM by WC alone and by addition of BMI as an explanatory factor.
Methodology/Principal Findings
WC, BMI and magnetic resonance imaging data from 742 men and women who participated in clinical studies in Canada and Finland were pooled. Total adjusted squared multiple correlation coefficients (R2) of ASFM and IAFM were calculated from multiple linear regression models with WC and BMI as explanatory variables. Mean BMI and WC of the participants in the pooled sample were 30 kg/m2 and 102 cm, respectively. WC explained 29% of the variance in ASFM and 51% of the variance in IAFM. Addition of BMI to WC added 28% to the variance explained in ASFM, but only 1% to the variance explained in IAFM. Results in subgroups stratified by study center, sex, age, obesity level and type 2 diabetes status were not systematically different.
The prediction of IAFM by WC is not improved by addition of BMI.
PMCID: PMC3286444  PMID: 22384179
9.  Exenatide Affects Circulating Cardiovascular Risk Biomarkers Independently of Changes in Body Composition 
Diabetes Care  2010;33(8):1734-1737.
To study the effect of exenatide on body composition and circulating cardiovascular risk biomarkers.
Metformin-treated patients with type 2 diabetes (N = 69) were randomized to exenatide or insulin glargine and treated for 1 year. Body composition was evaluated by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Additionally, body weight, waist circumference, and cardiovascular biomarkers were measured.
Treatment with exenatide for 1 year significantly reduced body weight, waist circumference, and total body and trunkal fat mass by 6, 5, 11, and 13%, respectively. In addition, exenatide increased total adiponectin by 12% and reduced high-sensitivity C-reactive protein by 61%. Insulin glargine significantly reduced endothelin-1 by 7%. These changes were statistically independent of the change in total body fat mass and body weight.
Exenatide treatment for 1 year reduced body fat mass and improved the profile of circulating biomarkers of cardiovascular risk. No significant changes were seen with insulin glargine except a trend for reduced endothelin-1 levels.
PMCID: PMC2909051  PMID: 20424219
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.  Use of Genome-Wide Expression Data to Mine the “Gray Zone” of GWA Studies Leads to Novel Candidate Obesity Genes 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(6):e1000976.
To get beyond the “low-hanging fruits” so far identified by genome-wide association (GWA) studies, new methods must be developed in order to discover the numerous remaining genes that estimates of heritability indicate should be contributing to complex human phenotypes, such as obesity. Here we describe a novel integrative method for complex disease gene identification utilizing both genome-wide transcript profiling of adipose tissue samples and consequent analysis of genome-wide association data generated in large SNP scans. We infer causality of genes with obesity by employing a unique set of monozygotic twin pairs discordant for BMI (n = 13 pairs, age 24–28 years, 15.4 kg mean weight difference) and contrast the transcript profiles with those from a larger sample of non-related adult individuals (N = 77). Using this approach, we were able to identify 27 genes with possibly causal roles in determining the degree of human adiposity. Testing for association of SNP variants in these 27 genes in the population samples of the large ENGAGE consortium (N = 21,000) revealed a significant deviation of P-values from the expected (P = 4×10−4). A total of 13 genes contained SNPs nominally associated with BMI. The top finding was blood coagulation factor F13A1 identified as a novel obesity gene also replicated in a second GWA set of ∼2,000 individuals. This study presents a new approach to utilizing gene expression studies for informing choice of candidate genes for complex human phenotypes, such as obesity.
Author Summary
Obesity has a strong genetic component and an estimated 45%–85% of the variation in adult relative weight is genetically determined. Many genes have recently been identified in genome-wide association studies. The individual effects of the identified genes, however, have been very modest, and their identification required very large sample sizes. New approaches are therefore needed to uncover further genetic variants that contribute to the development of obesity and related conditions. Much can be learned from studying the expression of genes in adipose tissue of obese and non-obese subjects, but it is very difficult to distinguish which genes' expression differences represent reactions to obesity from those related to causal processes. We studied monozygotic twin pairs discordant for obesity and contrasted the gene expression profiles of obese and lean co-twins (controlling for genetic variation) to those from unrelated individuals to try to discern the cause-and-effect relationships of the identified changes in gene expression in fat. Testing the identified genes in 21,000 individuals identified numerous new genes with possible roles in the development of obesity. Among the top findings was a gene involved in blood coagulation (Factor XIIIA1), possibly linking obesity with known complications including deep vein thrombosis, heart attack, and stroke.
PMCID: PMC2880558  PMID: 20532202
12.  Non-alcoholic and alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease - two Diseases of Affluence associated with the Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes: the FIN-D2D Survey 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:237.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is known to be associated with the metabolic syndrome (MetS) and abnormal glucose tolerance. Whether alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) is associated with similar metabolic abnormalities has not been examined in a population-based study. We aimed at assessing the prevalences of NAFLD and AFLD, and to examine to what extent these conditions are associated with MetS and abnormal glucose tolerance.
The cohort included 2766 Finnish subjects (45-74 years) from the population-based FIN-D2D survey. Features of insulin resistance, components of the MetS, glucose tolerance status by oral glucose tolerance test, serum liver enzyme concentrations, and daily alcohol consumption were assessed.
Subjects with NAFLD and AFLD were equally obese and had similar fasting and insulin concentrations. The prevalences of NAFLD and AFLD were 21% (95% CI: 19%-22%) and 7% (95% CI: 6%-8%). The MetS was slightly more prevalent in AFLD (73%) than in NAFLD (70%, p = 0.028), and type 2 diabetes was similarly prevalent in NAFLD and AFLD (24-25%). The MetS and type 2 diabetes were more prevalent in subjects with NAFLD or AFLD compared to subjects with normal LFTs (53% and 14%, p < 0.0001 for both).
Discussion and conclusion
In Finnish middle-aged population, the prevalence of NAFLD is 3-fold higher than that of AFLD. The prevalences of MetS and type 2 diabetes are, however, significantly increased in both NAFLD and AFLD compared to subjects with normal LFTs. Subjects with AFLD are thus similarly metabolically unhealthy as subjects with NAFLD.
PMCID: PMC2873937  PMID: 20459722
13.  One-Year Treatment With Exenatide Improves β-Cell Function, Compared With Insulin Glargine, in Metformin-Treated Type 2 Diabetic Patients 
Diabetes Care  2009;32(5):762-768.
Traditional blood glucose–lowering agents do not sustain adequate glycemic control in most type 2 diabetic patients. Preclinical studies with exenatide have suggested sustained improvements in β-cell function. We investigated the effects of 52 weeks of treatment with exenatide or insulin glargine followed by an off-drug period on hyperglycemic clamp–derived measures of β-cell function, glycemic control, and body weight.
Sixty-nine metformin-treated patients with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to exenatide (n = 36) or insulin glargine (n = 33). β-Cell function was measured during an arginine-stimulated hyperglycemic clamp at week 0, at week 52, and after a 4-week off-drug period. Additional end points included effects on glycemic control, body weight, and safety.
Treatment-induced change in combined glucose- and arginine-stimulated C-peptide secretion was 2.46-fold (95% CI 2.09–2.90, P < 0.0001) greater after a 52-week exenatide treatment compared with insulin glargine treatment. Both exenatide and insulin glargine reduced A1C similarly: −0.8 ± 0.1 and −0.7 ± 0.2%, respectively (P = 0.55). Exenatide reduced body weight compared with insulin glargine (difference −4.6 kg, P < 0.0001). β-Cell function measures returned to pretreatment values in both groups after a 4-week off-drug period. A1C and body weight rose to pretreatment values 12 weeks after discontinuation of either exenatide or insulin glargine therapy.
Exenatide significantly improves β-cell function during 1 year of treatment compared with titrated insulin glargine. After cessation of both exenatide and insulin glargine therapy, β-cell function and glycemic control returned to pretreatment values, suggesting that ongoing treatment is necessary to maintain the beneficial effects of either therapy.
PMCID: PMC2671094  PMID: 19196887
14.  Hepatic Stearoyl-CoA Desaturase (SCD)-1 Activity and Diacylglycerol but Not Ceramide Concentrations Are Increased in the Nonalcoholic Human Fatty Liver 
Diabetes  2009;58(1):203-208.
OBJECTIVE—To determine whether 1) hepatic ceramide and diacylglycerol concentrations, 2) SCD1 activity, and 3) hepatic lipogenic index are increased in the human nonalcoholic fatty liver.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—We studied 16 subjects with (n = 8) and without (n = 8) histologically determined nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL+ and NAFL−) matched for age, sex, and BMI. Hepatic concentrations of lipids and fatty acids were quantitated using ultra-performance liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry and gas chromatography.
RESULTS—The absolute (nmol/mg) hepatic concentrations of diacylglycerols but not ceramides were increased in the NAFL+ group compared with the NAFL− group. The livers of the NAFL+ group contained proportionally less long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids as compared with the NAFL− group. Liver fat percent was positively related to hepatic stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1 (SCD1) activity index (r = 0.70, P = 0.003) and the hepatic lipogenic index (r = 0.54, P = 0.030). Hepatic SCD1 activity index was positively related to the concentrations of diacylglycerols (r = 0.71, P = 0.002) but not ceramides (r = 0.07, NS).
CONCLUSIONS—We conclude that diacylglycerols but not ceramides are increased in NAFL. The human fatty liver is also characterized by depletion of long polyunsaturated fatty acids in the liver and increases in hepatic SCD1 and lipogenic activities.
PMCID: PMC2606873  PMID: 18952834
15.  Congruence between NOTCH3 mutations and GOM in 131 CADASIL patients 
Brain  2009;132(4):933-939.
Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) is the most common hereditary subcortical vascular dementia. It is caused by mutations in NOTCH3 gene, which encodes a large transmembrane receptor Notch3. The key pathological finding is the accumulation of granular osmiophilic material (GOM), which contains extracellular domains of Notch3, on degenerating vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). GOM has been considered specifically diagnostic for CADASIL, but the reports on the sensitivity of detecting GOM in patients’ skin biopsy have been contradictory. To solve this contradiction, we performed a retrospective investigation of 131 Finnish, Swedish and French CADASIL patients, who had been adequately examined for both NOTCH3 mutation and presence of GOM. The patients were examined according to the diagnostic practice in each country. NOTCH3 mutations were assessed by restriction enzyme analysis of specific mutations or by sequence analysis. Presence of GOM was examined by electron microscopy (EM) in skin biopsies. Biopsies of 26 mutation-negative relatives from CADASIL families served as the controls. GOM was detected in all 131 mutation positive patients. Altogether our patients had 34 different pathogenic mutations which included three novel point mutations (p.Cys67Ser, p.Cys251Tyr and p.Tyr1069Cys) and a novel duplication (p.Glu434_Leu436dup). The detection of GOM by EM in skin biopsies was a highly reliable diagnostic method: in this cohort the congruence between NOTCH3 mutations and presence of GOM was 100%. However, due to the retrospective nature of this study, exact figure for sensitivity cannot be determined, but it would require a prospective study to exclude possible selection bias. The identification of a pathogenic NOTCH3 mutation is an indisputable evidence for CADASIL, but demonstration of GOM provides a cost-effective guide for estimating how far one should proceed with the extensive search for a new or an uncommon mutations among the presently known over 170 different NOTCH3 gene defects. The diagnostic skin biopsy should include the border zone between deep dermis and upper subcutis, where small arterial vessels of correct size are located. Detection of GOM requires technically adequate biopsies and distinction of true GOM from fallacious deposits. If GOM is not found in the first vessel or biopsy, other vessels or additional biopsies should be examined.
PMCID: PMC2668941  PMID: 19174371
CADASIL; GOM; skin biopsy; NOTCH3; genetic testing
16.  Global Transcript Profiles of Fat in Monozygotic Twins Discordant for BMI: Pathways behind Acquired Obesity  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(3):e51.
The acquired component of complex traits is difficult to dissect in humans. Obesity represents such a trait, in which the metabolic and molecular consequences emerge from complex interactions of genes and environment. With the substantial morbidity associated with obesity, a deeper understanding of the concurrent metabolic changes is of considerable importance. The goal of this study was to investigate this important acquired component and expose obesity-induced changes in biological pathways in an identical genetic background.
Methods and Findings
We used a special study design of “clonal controls,” rare monozygotic twins discordant for obesity identified through a national registry of 2,453 young, healthy twin pairs. A total of 14 pairs were studied (eight male, six female; white), with a mean ± standard deviation (SD) age 25.8 ± 1.4 y and a body mass index (BMI) difference 5.2 ± 1.8 kg/m2. Sequence analyses of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in subcutaneous fat and peripheral leukocytes revealed no aberrant heteroplasmy between the co-twins. However, mtDNA copy number was reduced by 47% in the obese co-twin's fat. In addition, novel pathway analyses of the adipose tissue transcription profiles exposed significant down-regulation of mitochondrial branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) catabolism (p < 0.0001). In line with this finding, serum levels of insulin secretion-enhancing BCAAs were increased in obese male co-twins (9% increase, p = 0.025). Lending clinical relevance to the findings, in both sexes the observed aberrations in mitochondrial amino acid metabolism pathways in fat correlated closely with liver fat accumulation, insulin resistance, and hyperinsulinemia, early aberrations of acquired obesity in these healthy young adults.
Our findings emphasize a substantial role of mitochondrial energy- and amino acid metabolism in obesity and development of insulin resistance.
Leena Peltonen and colleagues uncover the metabolic changes that result from obesity through an analysis of genetically identical twin pairs in which one was obese and the other was not.
Editors' Summary
Around the world, the proportion of people who are obese (people with an unhealthy amount of body fat) is increasing. In the US, for example, 1 adult in 7 was obese in the mid 1970s. That is, their body mass index (BMI)—their weight in kilograms divided by their height in meters squared—was more than 30. Nowadays, 1 US adult in 3 has a BMI this high and, by 2025, it is predicted that 1 in 2 will be obese. This obesity epidemic is being driven by lifestyle changes that encourage the over-consumption of energy-rich foods and discourage regular physical activity. The resultant energy imbalance leads to weight gain (the excess energy is stored as body fat or adipose tissue) and also triggers numerous metabolic changes, alterations in the chemical processes that convert food into the energy and various substances needed to support life. These obesity-related metabolic changes increase a person's risk of developing adverse health conditions such as diabetes, a condition in which dangerously high levels of sugar from food accumulate in the blood.
Why Was This Study Done?
The changes in human fat in obesity have not been completely understood, although the abnormal metabolism of adipose tissue is increasingly seen as playing a critical part in excessive weight gain. It has been very difficult to decipher which molecular and metabolic changes associated with obesity are the result of becoming obese, and which might contribute towards the acquisition of obesity in humans in the first place. To discover more about the influence of environment on obesity-induced metabolic changes, the researchers in this study have investigated these changes in pairs of genetically identical twins.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited 14 pairs of genetically identical Finnish twins born between 1975 and 1979 who were “obesity discordant”—that is, one twin of each pair had a BMI of about 25 (not obese); the other had a BMI of about 30 (obese). The researchers took fat and blood samples from each twin, determined the insulin sensitivity of each, and measured the body composition and various fat stores of each. They found that the obese twins had more subcutaneous, intra-abdominal, and liver fat and were less insulin sensitive than the non-obese twins. Insulin sensitivity correlated with the amount of liver fat. Analysis of gene expression in the fat samples showed that 19 gene pathways (mainly inflammatory pathways) were expressed more strongly (up-regulated) in the obese twins than the non-obese twins, whereas seven pathways were down-regulated. The most highly down-regulated pathway was a mitochondrial pathway involved in amino acid breakdown, but mitochondrial energy metabolism pathways were also down-regulated. Finally, mitochondrial DNA copy number in fat was reduced in the obese twins by nearly half, a novel observation that could partly account for the obesity-induced metabolic defects of these individuals.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings identify several pathways that are involved in the development of obesity and insulin resistance. In particular, they suggest that changes in mitochondrial energy production pathways and in mitochondrial amino acid metabolism pathways could play important roles in the development of obesity and of insulin resistance and in the accumulation of liver fat even in young obese people. The study design involving identical twins has here produced some evidence for aberrations in molecules critical for acquired obesity. The results suggest that careful management of obesity by lifestyle changes has the potential to correct the obesity-related metabolic changes in fat that would otherwise lead to diabetes and other adverse health conditions in obese individuals. In addition, they suggest that the development of therapies designed to correct mitochondrial metabolism might help to reduce the illnesses associated with obesity.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on obesity and diabetes (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on all aspects of obesity (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service's health Web site (NHS Direct) provides information about obesity
The International Obesity Taskforce provides information about preventing obesity and on diabetes and obesity
The UK Foods Standards Agency and the United States Department of Agriculture provide online tools and useful advice about healthy eating for adults and children
Information is available for patients and carers from the US National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse on diabetes, including information on insulin resistance
PMCID: PMC2265758  PMID: 18336063
17.  Physical inactivity and obesity: A vicious circle 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2008;16(2):409-414.
Physical activity (PA) begins to decline in adolescence with concomitant increase in weight. We hypothesized that a vicious circle may arise between decreasing physical activity and weight gain from adolescence to early adulthood.
Research Methods and Procedures
PA and self-perceived physical fitness assessed in adolescence (16-18 years) were used to predict the development of obesity (BMI≥30 kg/m2) and abdominal obesity (waist≥88 cm in females and ≥102 cm in males) at age 25 in 4240 twin individuals (90% of twins born in Finland 1975-1979). Ten 25-year-old monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs discordant for obesity (16 kg weight difference) were then carefully evaluated for current PA (triaxial accelerometer), total energy expenditure (TEE, doubly labeled water), and basal metabolic rate (BMR, indirect calorimetry).
Physical inactivity in adolescence strongly predicted the risk of obesity (OR 3.9, 95%CI 1.4-10.9) and abdominal obesity (4.8, 1.9-12.0) at age 25, even after adjusting for baseline and current BMI. Poor physical fitness in adolescence also increased the risk of overall (5.1, 2.0-12.7) and abdominal obesity (3.2, 1.5-6.7) in adulthood. Physical inactivity was both causative and secondary to the development of obesity discordance in the MZ pairs. TEE did not differ between the MZ co-twins. PA levels were lower whereas BMR was higher in the obese co-twins.
Physical inactivity in adolescence strongly and independently predicts total and especially abdominal obesity in young adulthood, favoring the development of a self-perpetuating vicious circle of obesity and physical inactivity. Physical (in)activity should be a major target of obesity prevention in the young.
PMCID: PMC2249563  PMID: 18239652
longitudinal; twin studies; body mass index; waist circumference; energy expenditure
18.  Acquired Obesity Is Associated with Changes in the Serum Lipidomic Profile Independent of Genetic Effects – A Monozygotic Twin Study 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(2):e218.
Both genetic and environmental factors are involved in the etiology of obesity and the associated lipid disturbances. We determined whether acquired obesity is associated with changes in global serum lipid profiles independent of genetic factors in young adult monozygotic (MZ) twins. 14 healthy MZ pairs discordant for obesity (10 to 25 kg weight difference) and ten weight concordant control pairs aged 24–27 years were identified from a large population-based study. Insulin sensitivity was assessed by the euglycemic clamp technique, and body composition by DEXA (% body fat) and by MRI (subcutaneous and intra-abdominal fat). Global characterization of lipid molecular species in serum was performed by a lipidomics strategy using liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Obesity, independent of genetic influences, was primarily related to increases in lysophosphatidylcholines, lipids found in proinflammatory and proatherogenic conditions and to decreases in ether phospholipids, which are known to have antioxidant properties. These lipid changes were associated with insulin resistance, a pathogonomic characteristic of acquired obesity in these young adult twins. Our results show that obesity, already in its early stages and independent of genetic influences, is associated with deleterious alterations in the lipid metabolism known to facilitate atherogenesis, inflammation and insulin resistance.
PMCID: PMC1789242  PMID: 17299598

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