Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Program in Molecular Medicine

First Thesis Advisor

Michael P. Czech, Ph.D.


Insulin Resistance, Insulin, Glucose, Actins, Adipocytes, Carrier Proteins, Myosins


The importance of insulin delivery and action is best characterized in Type 2 Diabetes, a disease that is becoming a pandemic both nationally and globally. Obesity is a principal risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes, and adipocyte function abnormalities due to adipose hypertrophy and hyperplasia, have been linked to obesity. Numerous reports suggest that the intracellular and systemic consequences of adipocyte function abnormalities include adipocyte insulin resistance, enhanced production of free fatty acids, and production of inflammatory mediators. A hallmark of adipocyte insulin sensitivity is the stimulation of glucose transporter isoform 4 (GLUT4) trafficking events to promote glucose uptake. In the Type 2 diabetic and insulin resistant states the mechanism behind insulin-stimulated GLUT4 trafficking is compromised. Therefore, understanding the role of factors involved in glucose-uptake in adipose tissue is of great importance.

Studies from our laboratory suggest an important role for the unconventional myosin, Myo1c, in promoting insulin-mediated glucose uptake in cultured adipocytes. Our observations suggest that depletion of Myo1c in cultured adipocytes results in a significant reduction in the ability of adipocytes to take up glucose following insulin treatment, suggesting Myo1c is required for insulin-mediated glucose uptake. A plausible mechanism by which Myo1c promotes glucose uptake in adipocytes has been suggested by further work from our laboratory in which expression of fluorescently-tagged Myo1c in cultured adipocytes induces significant membrane ruffling at the cell periphery, insulin-independent GLUT4 translocation to the cell periphery, and accumulation of GLUT4 in membrane ruffling regions. Taken together Myo1c seems to facilitate glucose uptake through remodeling of cortical actin.

In the first part of this thesis I, in collaboration with others, uncovered a possible mechanism through which Myo1c regulates adipocyte membrane ruffling. Here we identified a novel protein complex in cultured adipocytes, comprising Myo1c and the mTOR binding partner, Rictor. Interestingly our studies in cultured adipocytes suggest that the Rictor-Myo1c complex is biochemically distinct from the Rictor-mTOR complex of mTORC2. Functionally, only depletion of Rictor but not Myo1c results in decreased Akt phosphorylation at serine 473, but depletion of either Rictor or Myo1c results in compromised cortical actin dynamic events. Furthermore we observed that whereas the overexpression of Myo1c in cultured adipocytes causes remarkable membrane ruffling, Rictor depletion in cells overexpressing Myo1c significantly reduces these ruffling events. Taken together our findings suggest that Myo1c, in conjunction with Rictor, modulates cortical actin remodeling events in cultured adipocytes. These findings have implications for GLUT4 trafficking as GLUT4 has been previously observed to accumulate in Myo1c-induced membrane ruffles prior to fusion with the plasma membrane.

During our studies of adipocyte function we noticed that current siRNA electroporation methods present numerous limitations. To silence genes more effectively we employed a lentivirus-mediated shRNA delivery system, and to standardize this technology in cultured adipocytes we targeted Myo1c and MAP4K4. Using this technology we were able to achieve clear advantages over siRNA oligonucleotide electroporation techniques in stability and permanence of gene silencing. Furthermore we showed that the use of lentiviral vectors in cultured adipocytes did not affect insulin signaling or insulin-mediated glucose uptake events. Despite our inability to use lentiviral vectors to achieve gene silencing in mice we were able to achieve adipose tissue-specific gene silencing effects in mice following manipulation of the lentiviral conditional silencing vector, and then crossing resulting founders with aP2-Cre mice. Interestingly however, only founders from the MAP4K4 conditional shRNA vector, but not founders from the Myo1c conditional shRNA vector, showed gene knockdown, possibly due to position-effect variegation. Taken together, findings from these studies are important because they present an alternative means of achieving gene silencing in cultured adipocytes, with numerous advantages not offered by siRNA oligonucleotide electroporation methods. Furthermore, the in vivo, adipose tissue-specific RNAi studies offer a quick, inexpensive, and less technically challenging means of achieving adipose tissue-specific gene ablations relative to traditional gene knockout approaches.



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