GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Program in Molecular Medicine

First Thesis Advisor

Silvia Corvera, M.D.


Adipose Tissue, White, Mitochondria, Insulin Resistance, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt, Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins


Excess food consumption and/or lack of exercise have dramatically contributed to the prevalence of overweight (BMI≥25) and obesity (BMI≥30) in modern society. The obesity epidemic has been linked to the rise in type 2 diabetes. In recent years, evidence has pointed to a close association between mitochondrial dysfunction in white adipose tissue (WAT) and insulin resistance, a key feature of type 2 diabetes. In order to dissect the cause and effect relationship between WAT mitochondrial dysfunction and insulin resistance, we established an in vitro cell line system to investigate this issue. We artificially introduced mitochondrial dysfunction in 3T3-L1 adipocytes by depleting the mitochondrial transcription factor A (Tfam) during adipogenesis, without changing the overall adipocyte differentiation program. We found that these Tfam-depleted 3T3-L1 adipocytes showed symptoms of insulin resistance, evidenced by impaired insulin stimulated GLUT4 translocation and glucose uptake. This result suggested that mitochondrial dysfunction could be a primary contributor to insulin resistance in fat tissue. However, the exact mechanism underlying this finding remains unclear.

As part of a comprehensive understanding of insulin signaling in fat cells, we also investigated the involvement of the endosomal protein WDFY2 in the regulation of Akt isoform-specific effect on glucose uptake. In 3T3-L1 adipocytes, both Akt1 and Akt2 isoforms are expressed, but only Akt2 plays an indispensible role in insulin-stimulated GLUT4 translocation and glucose uptake. Previous studies implied that endosomal proteins may take a part in determining Akt substrate specificity. Here we found that WDFY2 preferentially co-localized with Akt2 and that knockdown of WDFY2 inhibited insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in 3T3-L1 adipocytes, suggesting that endosomes are involved in this regulation. The effect of WDFY2 knockdown on insulin-stimulated glucose uptake worked through the down-regulation of Akt2, but not Akt1, protein level. We concluded that, endosomal protein WDFY2, by preferentially interacting with Akt2, regulates insulin signaling in glucose uptake in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Our findings may help to develop specific therapeutic interventions for treatment of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.



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