Objective: Adipose tissue relies on lipid droplet (LD) proteins in its role as a lipid-storing endocrine organ that controls whole body metabolism. Hypoxia-inducible Gene 2 (Hig2) is a recently identified LD-associated protein in hepatocytes that promotes hepatic lipid storage, but its role in the adipocyte had not been investigated. Here we tested the hypothesis that Hig2 localization to LDs in adipocytes promotes adipose tissue lipid deposition and systemic glucose homeostasis.
Method: White and brown adipocyte-deficient (Hig2fl/fl × Adiponection cre+) and selective brown/beige adipocyte-deficient (Hig2fl/fl × Ucp1 cre+) mice were generated to investigate the role of Hig2 in adipose depots. Additionally, we used multiple housing temperatures to investigate the role of active brown/beige adipocytes in this process.
Results: Hig2 localized to LDs in SGBS cells, a human adipocyte cell strain. Mice with adipocyte-specific Hig2 deficiency in all adipose depots demonstrated reduced visceral adipose tissue weight and increased glucose tolerance. This metabolic effect could be attributed to brown/beige adipocyte-specific Hig2 deficiency since Hig2fl/fl × Ucp1 cre+ mice displayed the same phenotype. Furthermore, when adipocyte-deficient Hig2 mice were moved to thermoneutral conditions in which non-shivering thermogenesis is deactivated, these improvements were abrogated and glucose intolerance ensued. Adipocyte-specific Hig2 deficient animals displayed no detectable changes in adipocyte lipolysis or energy expenditure, suggesting that Hig2 may not mediate these metabolic effects by restraining lipolysis in adipocytes.
Conclusions: We conclude that Hig2 localizes to LDs in adipocytes, promoting adipose tissue lipid deposition and that its selective deficiency in active brown/beige adipose tissue mediates improved glucose tolerance at 23 °C. Reversal of this phenotype at thermoneutrality in the absence of detectable changes in energy expenditure, adipose mass, or liver triglyceride suggests that Hig2 deficiency triggers a deleterious endocrine or neuroendocrine pathway emanating from brown/beige fat cells.
Keywords: Obesity, Adipocyte, Lipid droplet, Lipolysis, Hypoxia-inducible gene 2 (Hig2)