Background: Diabetes and metabolic syndromes are chronic, devastating diseases with increasing prevalence. Human pluripotent stem cells are gaining popularity in their usage for human in vitro disease modeling. With recent rapid advances in genome editing tools, these cells can now be genetically manipulated with relative ease to study how genes and gene variants contribute to diabetes and metabolic syndromes.
Scope of review: We highlight the diabetes and metabolic genes and gene variants, which could potentially be studied, using two powerful technologies – human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) and genome editing tools – to aid the elucidation of yet elusive mechanisms underlying these complex diseases.
Major conclusions: hPSCs and the advancing genome editing tools appear to be a timely and potent combination for probing molecular mechanism(s) underlying diseases such as diabetes and metabolic syndromes. The knowledge gained from these hiPSC-based disease modeling studies can potentially be translated into the clinics by guiding clinicians on the appropriate type of medication to use for each condition based on the mechanism of action of the disease.[Hide abstract]
Background: Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) belongs to the large family of fibroblast growth factors (FGFs). Even though FGF signaling has been mainly implicated in developmental processes, recent studies have demonstrated that FGF21 is an important regulator of whole body energy expenditure and metabolism, in obesity.
Scope of review: Given the fact that obesity has developed epidemic proportions, not just in industrialized countries, FGF21 has emerged as a novel therapeutic avenue to treat obesity as well as associated metabolic disorders. While the metabolic effects of FGF21 are undisputed, the mechanisms by which FGF21 regulate weight loss have not yet been fully resolved. Until recently it was believed that FGF21 induces brown fat activity, thereby enhancing energy expenditure, which concomitantly leads to weight loss. Novel studies have challenged this concept as they could demonstrate that a part of the FGF21 mediated effects are retained in a mouse model of impaired brown adipose tissue function.
Major conclusions: The review illustrates the recent advances in FGF21 research and discusses the role of FGF21 in the regulation of energy expenditure linked to brown fat activity.[Hide abstract]
Aims/hypothesis: The adipose tissue-derived hormone leptin plays an important role in the maintenance of body weight and glucose homeostasis. Leptin mediates its effects by interaction with leptin receptors (LepRb), which are highly expressed in the hypothalamus and other brain centres, and at lower levels in the periphery. Previous studies have used relatively promiscuous or inefficient Cre deleter strains, respectively, to explore the roles of LepR in pancreatic β and α cells. Here, we use two newly-developed Cre lines to explore the role of leptin signalling in insulin and proglucagon-expressing cells.
Methods: Leptin receptor expression was measured in isolated mouse islets and highly-purified islet cells by RNASeq and quantitative RT-PCR. Mice lacking leptin signalling in pancreatic β, or in α and other proglucagon-expressing cells, were generated using Ins1Cre- or iGluCre-mediated recombination respectively of flox'd leptin receptor alleles. In vivo glucose homeostasis, changes in body weight, pancreatic histology and hormone secretion from isolated islets were assessed using standard techniques.
Results: Leptin receptor mRNA levels were at or below the level of detection in wild-type adult mouse isolated islets and purified cells, and leptin signalling to Stat3 phosphorylation was undetectable. Whereas male mice further deleted for leptin receptors in β cells exhibited no abnormalities in glucose tolerance up to 16 weeks of age, females transiently displayed improved glucose tolerance at 8 weeks (11.2 ± 3.2% decrease in area under curve; p < 0.05), and improved (39.0 ± 13.0%, P < 0.05) glucose-stimulated insulin secretion in vitro. No differences were seen between genotypes in body weight, fasting glucose or β/α cell ratio. Deletion of LepR from α-cells, a minority of β cells, and a subset of proglucagon-expressing cells in the brain, exerted no effects on body weight, glucose or insulin tolerance, nor on pancreatic hormone secretion assessed in vivo and in vitro.
Conclusions/interpretation: The use here of a highly selective Cre recombinase indicates that leptin signalling plays a relatively minor, age- and sex-dependent role in the control of β cell function in the mouse. No in vivo role for leptin receptors on α cells, nor in other proglucagon-expressing cells, was detected in this study.[Hide abstract]
Objective: Defective glucose uptake in adipocytes leads to impaired metabolic homeostasis and insulin resistance, hallmarks of type 2 diabetes. Extracellular ATP-derived nucleotides and nucleosides are important regulators of adipocyte function, but the pathway for controlled ATP release from adipocytes is unknown. Here, we investigated whether Pannexin 1 (Panx1) channels control ATP release from adipocytes and contribute to metabolic homeostasis.
Methods: We assessed Panx1 functionality in cultured 3T3-L1 adipocytes and in adipocytes isolated from murine white adipose tissue by measuring ATP release in response to known activators of Panx1 channels. Glucose uptake in cultured 3T3-L1 adipocytes was measured in the presence of Panx1 pharmacologic inhibitors and in adipocytes isolated from white adipose tissue from wildtype (WT) or adipocyte-specific Panx1 knockout (AdipPanx1 KO) mice generated in our laboratory. We performed in vivo glucose uptake studies in chow fed WT and AdipPanx1 KO mice and assessed insulin resistance in WT and AdipPanx1 KO mice fed a high fat diet for 12 weeks. Panx1 channel function was assessed in response to insulin by performing electrophysiologic recordings in a heterologous expression system. Finally, we measured Panx1 mRNA in human visceral adipose tissue samples by qRT-PCR and compared expression levels with glucose levels and HOMA-IR measurements in patients.
Results: Our data show that adipocytes express functional Pannexin 1 (Panx1) channels that can be activated to release ATP. Pharmacologic inhibition or selective genetic deletion of Panx1 from adipocytes decreased insulin-induced glucose uptake in vitro and in vivo and exacerbated diet-induced insulin resistance in mice. Further, we identify insulin as a novel activator of Panx1 channels. In obese humans Panx1 expression in adipose tissue is increased and correlates with the degree of insulin resistance.
Conclusions: We show that Panx1 channel activity regulates insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in adipocytes and thus contributes to control of metabolic homeostasis.[Hide abstract]
Objective: Several human and rodent obesity studies speculate on a causal link between altered white adipocyte mitochondria in the obese state and changes in glucose homeostasis. We here aimed to dissect whether alterations in white adipocyte mitochondrial respiratory function are a specific phenomenon of obesity or impaired glucose tolerance or both.
Methods: Mature white adipocytes were purified from posterior subcutaneous and intraabdominal epididymal fat of four murine obesity models characterized by either impaired or normal oral glucose tolerance. Bioenergetic profiles, including basal, leak, and maximal respiration, were generated using high-resolution respirometry. Cell respiratory control ratios were calculated to evaluate mitochondrial respiratory function.
Results: Maximal respiration capacity and cell respiratory control ratios were diminished in white adipocytes of each of the four murine obesity models, both in the absence and the presence of impaired glucose tolerance. Limitation was more pronounced in adipocytes of intraabdominal versus subcutaneous fat.
Conclusion: Reduced mitochondrial respiratory capacity in white adipocytes is a hallmark of murine obesity irrespective of the glucose tolerance status. Impaired respiratory capacity in white adipocytes solely is not sufficient for the development of systemic glucose intolerance.[Hide abstract]
Objective: Skeletal muscle AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is important for regulating glucose homeostasis, mitochondrial content and exercise capacity. R419 is a mitochondrial complex-I inhibitor that has recently been shown to acutely activate AMPK in myotubes. Our main objective was to examine whether R419 treatment improves insulin sensitivity and exercise capacity in obese insulin resistant mice and whether skeletal muscle AMPK was important for mediating potential effects.
Methods: Glucose homeostasis, insulin sensitivity, exercise capacity, and electron transport chain content/activity were examined in wildtype (WT) and AMPK β1β2 muscle-specific null (AMPK-MKO) mice fed a high-fat diet (HFD) with or without R419 supplementation.
Results: There was no change in weight gain, adiposity, glucose tolerance or insulin sensitivity between HFD-fed WT and AMPK-MKO mice. In both HFD-fed WT and AMPK-MKO mice, R419 enhanced insulin tolerance, insulin-stimulated glucose disposal, skeletal muscle 2-deoxyglucose uptake, Akt phosphorylation and glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4) content independently of alterations in body mass. In WT, but not AMPK-MKO mice, R419 improved treadmill running capacity. Treatment with R419 increased muscle electron transport chain content and activity in WT mice; effects which were blunted in AMPK-MKO mice.
Conclusions: Treatment of obese mice with R419 improved skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity through a mechanism that is independent of skeletal muscle AMPK. R419 also increases exercise capacity and improves mitochondrial function in obese WT mice; effects that are diminished in the absence of skeletal muscle AMPK. These findings suggest that R419 may be a promising therapy for improving whole-body glucose homeostasis and exercise capacity.[Hide abstract]