Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Program in Molecular Medicine

First Thesis Advisor

Michael P. Czech, PhD


Energy Metabolism, Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases, Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins, Glucose, Facilitative Glucose Transport Proteins, Gene Silencing, Adipocytes, Insulin


Dissertations, UMMS; Energy Metabolism; Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases; Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins; Glucose; Glucose Transport Proteins, Facilitative; Gene Silencing; Adipocytes; Insulin


Systemic glucose regulation is essential for human survival as low or chronically high glucose levels can be detrimental to the health of an individual. Glucose levels are highly regulated via inter-organ communication networks that alter metabolic function to maintain euglycemia. For example, when nutrient levels are low, pancreatic α-cells secrete glucagon, which signals to the liver to promote glycogen breakdown and glucose production. In times of excess nutrient intake, pancreatic β-cells release insulin. Insulin signals to the liver to suppress hepatic glucose production, and signals to the adipose tissue and the skeletal muscle to take up excess glucose via insulin-regulated glucose transporters. Defects in this inter-organ communication network including insulin resistance can result in glucose deregulation and ultimately the onset of type-2 diabetes (T2D).

To identify novel regulators of insulin-mediated glucose transport, our laboratory performed an siRNA-mediated gene-silencing screen in cultured adipocytes and measured insulin-mediated glucose transport. Gene silencing of Mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase kinase 4 (Map4k4), a Sterile-20-related serine/threonine protein kinase, enhanced insulin-stimulated glucose transport, suggesting Map4k4 inhibits insulin action and glucose transport. Thus, for the first part of my thesis, I explore the role of Map4k4 in cultured adipose cells and show that Map4k4 also represses lipid synthesis independent of its effects on glucose transport. Map4k4 inhibits lipid synthesis in a Mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1)- and Sterol regulatory element-binding transcription factor 1 (Srebp-1)-dependent mechanism and not via a c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (Jnk)-dependent mechanism. For the second part of my thesis, I explore the metabolic function of Map4k4 in vivo. Using mice with loxP sites flanking the Map4k4 allele and a ubiquitously expressed tamoxifen-activated Cre, we inducibly ablated Map4k4 expression in adult mice and found significant improvements in metabolic health indicated by improved fasting glucose and whole-body insulin action. To assess the role of Map4k4 in specific metabolic tissues responsible for systemic glucose regulation, we employed tissue-specific knockout mice to deplete Map4k4 in adipose tissue using an adiponectin-cre transgene, liver using an albumin-cre transgene, and skeletal muscle using a Myf5-cre transgene. Ablation of Map4k4 expression in adipose tissue or liver had no impact on whole body glucose homeostasis or insulin resistance. However, we surprisingly found that Map4k4 depletion in Myf5-positive tissues, which include skeletal muscles, largely recapitulates the metabolic phenotypes observed in systemic Map4k4 knockout mice, restoring obesity-induced glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. Furthermore these metabolic changes were associated with enhanced insulin signaling to Akt in the visceral adipose tissue, a tissue that is nearly devoid of Myf5-positive cells and does not display changes in Map4k4 expression. Thus, these results indicate that Map4k4 in Myf5-positive cells, most likely skeletal muscle cells, inhibits whole-body insulin action and these effects may be mediated via an indirect effect on the visceral adipose tissue. The results presented here provide evidence for Map4k4 as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of insulin resistance and T2D.



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