In 2010, Johnson and Kenny provided conclusive evidence that extended access to a Western-style diet promotes addictive-like behavior in rats by downregulating D-2 receptors while promoting obesity. This focused attention on the parallels between drug addiction and overeating and fueled a decade of food addiction research.
In obesity and type 2 diabetes, Glut4 glucose transporter expression is decreased selectively in adipocytes(1). Adipose-specific knockout or overexpression of Glut4 alters systemic insulin sensitivity(2). Here we show, using DNA array analyses, that nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (Nnmt) is the most strongly reciprocally regulated gene when comparing gene expression in white adipose tissue(WAT) from adipose-specific Glut4k-nockout or adipose-specific Glut4-overexpressing mice with their respective controls. NNMT methylates nicotinamide (vitamin B3) using S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) as a methyl donor(3,4). Nicotinamide is a precursor of NAD(+), an important cofactor linking cellular redox states with energy metabolism(5). SAM provides propylamine for polyamine biosynthesis and donates a methyl group for histone methylation(6). Polyamine flux including synthesis, catabolism and excretion, is controlled by the rate-limiting enzymes ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) and spermidine-spermine N-1-acetyltransferase (SSAT; encoded by Sat1) and by polyamine oxidase (PAO), and has a major role in energy metabolism(7,8). We report that NNMT expression is increased in WAT and liver of obese and diabetic mice. Nnmt knockdown in WAT and liver protects against diet-induced obesity by augmenting cellular energy expenditure. NNMT inhibition increases adipose SAM and NAD(+) levels and upregulates ODC and SSAT activity as well as expression, owing to the effects of NNMT on histone H3 lysine 4 methylation in adipose tissue. Direct evidence for increased polyamine flux resulting from NNMT inhibition includes elevated urinary excretion and adipocyte secretion of diacetylspermine, a product of polyamine metabolism. NNMT inhibition in adipocytes increases oxygen consumption in an ODC-, SSAT- and PAO-dependent manner. Thus, NNMT is a novel regulator of histone methylation, polyamine flux and NAD(+)-dependent SIRT1 signalling, and is a unique and attractive target for treating obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Hyperinsulinemia is associated with obesity and pancreatic islet hyperplasia, but whether insulin causes these phenomena or is a compensatory response has remained unsettled for decades. We examined the role of insulin hypersecretion in diet-induced obesity by varying the pancreas-specific Ins1 gene dosage in mice lacking Ins2 gene expression in the pancreas, thymus, and brain. Age-dependent increases in fasting insulin and beta cell mass were absent in Ins1(+/-):Ins2(-/-) mice fed a high-fat diet when compared to Ins1(+/+):Ins2(-/-) littermate controls. Remarkably, Ins1(+/-):Ins2(-1-) mice were completely protected from diet-induced obesity. Genetic prevention of chronic hyperinsulinemia in this model reprogrammed white adipose tissue to express uncoupling protein 1 and increase energy expenditure. Normalization of adipocyte size and activation of energy expenditure genes in white adipose tissue was associated with reduced inflammation, reduced fatty acid spillover, and reduced hepatic steatosis. Thus, we provide genetic evidence that pathological circulating hyperinsulinemia drives diet-induced obesity and its complications.
There is considerable controversy regarding epigenetic inheritance in mammalian gametes. Using in vitro fertilization to ensure exclusive inheritance via the gametes, we show that a parental high-fat diet renders offspring more susceptible to developing obesity and diabetes in a sex- and parent of origin-specific mode. The epigenetic inheritance of acquired metabolic disorders may contribute to the current obesity and diabetes pandemic.
The metabolism of vitamin A and the diverse effects of its metabolites are tightly controlled by distinct retinoid-generating enzymes, retinoid-binding proteins and retinoid-activated nuclear receptors. Retinoic acid regulates differentiation and metabolism by activating the retinoic acid receptor and retinoid X receptor (RXR), indirectly influencing RXR heterodimeric partners. Retinoic acid is formed solely from retinaldehyde (Rald), which in turn is derived from vitamin A. Rald currently has no defined biologic role outside the eye. Here we show that Rald is present in rodent fat, binds retinol-binding proteins (CRBP1, RBP4), inhibits adipogenesis and suppresses peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-c and RXR responses. In vivo, mice lacking the Rald-catabolizing enzyme retinaldehyde dehydrogenase 1 (Raldh1) resisted diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance and showed increased energy dissipation. In ob/ob mice, administrating Rald or a Raldh inhibitor reduced fat and increased insulin sensitivity. These results identify Rald as a distinct transcriptional regulator of the metabolic responses to a high-fat diet.
Obesity and type 2 diabetes are characterized by altered gut microbiota, inflammation, and gut barrier disruption. Microbial composition and the mechanisms of interaction with the host that affect gut barrier function during obesity and type 2 diabetes have not been elucidated. We recently isolated Akkermansia muciniphila, which is a mucin-degrading bacterium that resides in the mucus layer. The presence of this bacterium inversely correlates with body weight in rodents and humans. However, the precise physiological roles played by this bacterium during obesity and metabolic disorders are unknown. This study demonstrated that the abundance of A. muciniphila decreased in obese and type 2 diabetic mice. We also observed that prebiotic feeding normalized A. muciniphila abundance, which correlated with an improved metabolic profile. In addition, we demonstrated that A. muciniphila treatment reversed high-fat diet-induced metabolic disorders, including fat-mass gain, metabolic endotoxemia, adipose tissue inflammation, and insulin resistance. A. muciniphila administration increased the intestinal levels of endocannabinoids that control inflammation, the gut barrier, and gut peptide secretion. Finally, we demonstrated that all these effects required viable A. muciniphila because treatment with heat-killed cells did not improve the metabolic profile or the mucus layer thickness. In summary, this study provides substantial insight into the intricate mechanisms of bacterial (i.e., A. muciniphila) regulation of the cross-talk between the host and gut microbiota. These results also provide a rationale for the development of a treatment that uses this human mucus colonizer for the prevention or treatment of obesity and its associated metabolic disorders.
Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), primarily acetate, propionate, and butyrate, are metabolites formed by gut microbiota from complex dietary carbohydrates. Butyrate and acetate were reported to protect against diet-induced obesity without causing hypophagia, while propionate was shown to reduce food intake. However, the underlying mechanisms for these effects are unclear. It was suggested that SCFAs may regulate gut hormones via their endogenous receptors Free fatty acid receptors 2 (FFAR2) and 3 (FFAR3), but direct evidence is lacking. We examined the effects of SCFA administration in mice, and show that butyrate, propionate, and acetate all protected against diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance. Butyrate and propionate, but not acetate, induce gut hormones and reduce food intake. As FFAR3 is the common receptor activated by butyrate and propionate, we examined these effects in FFAR3-deficient mice. The effects of butyrate and propionate on body weight and food intake are independent of FFAR3. In addition, FFAR3 plays a minor role in butyrate stimulation of Glucagon-like peptide-1, and is not required for butyrate- and propionate-dependent induction of Glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide. Finally, FFAR3-deficient mice show normal body weight and glucose homeostasis. Stimulation of gut hormones and food intake inhibition by butyrate and propionate may represent a novel mechanism by which gut microbiota regulates host metabolism. These effects are largely intact in FFAR3-deficient mice, indicating additional mediators are required for these beneficial effects.
We have investigated the interrelationship between diet, gut microbial ecology, and energy balance using a mouse model of obesity produced by consumption of a prototypic Western diet. Diet-induced obesity (DIO) produced a bloom in a single uncultured clade within the Mollicutes class of the Firmicutes, which was diminished by subsequent dietary manipulations that limit weight gain. Microbiota transplantation from mice with DIO to lean germ-free recipients promoted greater fat deposition than transplants from lean donors. Metagenomic and biochemical analysis of the gut microbiome together with sequencing and metabolic reconstructions of a related human gut-associated Mollicute (Eubacterium dolichum) revealed features that may provide a competitive advantage to members of the bloom in the Western diet nutrient milieu, including import and processing of simple sugars. Our study illustrates how combining comparative metagenomics with gnotobiotic mouse models and specific dietary manipulations can disclose the niches of previously uncharacterized members of the gut microbiota.
Although mast cell functions have classically been related to allergic responses, recent studies indicate that these cells contribute to other common diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, aortic aneurysm and cancer. This study presents evidence that mast cells also contribute to diet-induced obesity and diabetes. For example, white adipose tissue (WAT) from obese humans and mice contain more mast cells than WAT from their lean counterparts. Furthermore, in the context of mice on a Western diet, genetically induced deficiency of mast cells, or their pharmacological stabilization, reduces body weight gain and levels of inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and proteases in serum and WAT, in concert with improved glucose homeostasis and energy expenditure. Mechanistic studies reveal that mast cells contribute to WAT and muscle angiogenesis and associated cell apoptosis and cathepsin activity. Adoptive transfer experiments of cytokine-deficient mast cells show that these cells, by producing interleukin-6 (IL-6) and interferon-γ (IFN-γ), contribute to mouse adipose tissue cysteine protease cathepsin expression, apoptosis and angiogenesis, thereby promoting diet-induced obesity and glucose intolerance. Our results showing reduced obesity and diabetes in mice treated with clinically available mast cell-stabilizing agents suggest the potential of developing new therapies for these common human metabolic disorders.
Microbiota are essential for weight gain in mouse models of diet-induced obesity (DIO), but the pathways that cause the microbiota to induce weight gain are unknown. We report that mice deficient in lymphotoxin, a key molecule in gut immunity, were resistant to DIO. Ltbr(-/-) mice had different microbial community composition compared to their heterozygous littermates, including an overgrowth of segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB). Furthermore, cecal transplantation conferred leanness to germ-free recipients. Housing Ltbr(-/-) mice with their obese siblings rescued weight gain in Ltbr(-/-) mice, demonstrating the communicability of the obese phenotype. Ltbr(-/-) mice lacked interleukin 23 (IL-23) and IL-22, which can regulate SFB. Mice deficient in these pathways also resisted DIO, demonstrating that intact mucosal immunity guides diet-induced changes to the microbiota to enable obesity.