Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Program in Molecular Medicine

First Thesis Advisor

Michael P. Czech, Ph.D.


RNA, Small Interfering, Proteins, Fatty Acids, Nonesterified, Lipolysis, Adipocytes, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, Isoproterenol


The alarming rate of increase in incidence and prevalence of the type 2 diabetes mellitus has prompted intense research on understanding the pathogenesis of the type 2 diabetes. It is observed that the development of type 2 diabetes is preceded by a state of insulin resistance and obesity. Previous studies have suggested that the obesity induced insulin resistance may be mediated by elevated levels of circulating free fatty acids (FFAs). The increase in circulating levels of FFAs may be contributed by the release of FFAs from stored triglycerides (TG) in adipocytes via lipolysis. It is hypothesized that the decrease in levels of circulating FFAs by sequestration and storage of FFAs in adipocytes may prevent deleterious effects of FFAs on insulin sensitivity. Recently our lab and others have shown that the storage of TG in adipocytes is promoted by a novel protein, Fat Specific Protein 27 (FSP27). Although, these studies also revealed FSP27 to be a lipid droplet associated protein that suppresses lipolysis to enhance TG accumulation in adipocytes, the role of FSP27 in lipolysis remains largely undetermined. Therefore, this study investigates the role and regulation of FSP27 in adipocytes in both the basal state, as well as during lipolysis.

The studies presented here show FSP27 to be a remarkably short-lived protein (half-life=15 min) due to its rapid ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. Thus, I tested the hypothesis that lipolytic agents like the cytokine, TNF-α and the catecholamine isoproterenol modulate FSP27 protein levels to regulate FFA release. Consistent with this concept, TNF-α markedly decreased FSP27 mRNA and protein along with lipid droplet size as it increased lipolysis in cultured adipocytes. Similarly, FSP27 depletion using siRNA mimicked the effect of TNF-α to enhance lipolysis, while maintaining stable FSP27 protein levels by expression of HA epitope-tagged FSP27 blocked TNF-α mediated lipolysis. In contrast, the robust lipolytic action of isoproterenol is paradoxically associated with increases in FSP27 protein and a delayed degradation rate that corresponds to decreased ubiquitination. This catecholamine-mediated increase in FSP27 abundance, probably a feedback mechanism to restrain excessive lipolysis by catecholamines, is mimicked by forskolin or 8-Bromo-cAMP treatment, and prevented by Protein Kinase A (PKA) inhibitor KT5720 or PKA depletion using siRNA. These results show that isoproterenol stabililizes FSP27 via the canonical PKA pathway and increased cAMP levels. However, the work presented here also suggests that FSP27 does not get phosphorylated in response to isoproterenol treatment, and the stabilization of FSP27 is independent of isoproterenol mediated lipolysis.

The data presented in this thesis not only identifies the regulation of FSP27 as an important intermediate in mechanism of lipolysis in adipocytes in response to TNF-α and isoproterenol, but also suggests that FSP27 may be a possible therapeutic target to modulate lipolysis in adipocytes.



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