The Role of Adipocyte Lipid Droplet Lipolysis in Thermogenesis and Metabolic Health

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My thesis was focused on the role of Comparative Gene Identification-58 (CGI-58)-mediated adipocyte lipid droplet (LD) lipolysis in thermogenesis and metabolic health. LD lipolysis in energy-dissipating brown adipose tissue (BAT) was believed to play a central role in cold-induced non-shivering thermogenesis, but this concept has not been tested in whole animal in vivo. We created a mouse line that lacks BAT CGI-58, a coactivator of Adipose Triglyceride Lipase (ATGL) that initiates the first step of cytosolic LD lipolysis by cleaving a fatty acyl chain from a triglyceride (TG) molecule. We found that BAT-specific CGI-58 knockout (BAT-KO) mice defend against the cold normally when food is absent, despite a defect in BAT LD lipolysis. Interestingly, BAT-KO versus control mice display higher body temperature when food is present during cold exposure. This cold adaptation in BAT-KO mice is associated with increases in BAT glucose uptake, insulin sensitivity, white adipose tissue (WAT) browning, energy expenditure, and sympathetic innervation. To identify the sources of fuels for thermogenesis of BAT-KO mice in the fasted state, we hypothesized that WAT lipolysis is a major source of thermogenic fuels during fasting. To test this hypothesis, we genetically inactivated CGI-58 expression in the whole fat tissues (both BAT and WAT) of mice (FAT-KO mice). We observed that FAT-KO mice are cold sensitive when food is absent, but tolerate cold normally when food is present, demonstrating that WAT lipolysis is essential for cold-induced thermogenesis during fasting and that dietary nutrients can substitute WAT lipolysis for fueling whole-body thermogenesis. Intriguingly, FAT-KO mice display a dramatic increase in cardiac glucose uptake under both basal and insulin-stimulated conditions, which is associated with significant increases in glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and cardiac expression levels of natriuretic peptides. In conclusion, our studies demonstrate that 1) BAT LD lipolysis is not essential for cold-induced whole-body thermogenesis due to increased BAT uptake of circulating fuels and WAT browning; 2) WAT lipolysis is required for fueling thermogenesis during fasting; and 3) Adipose lipolysis is critically implicated in whole-body energy metabolism and cardiac function.