Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Program in Molecular Medicine

First Thesis Advisor

Michael P. Czech, PhD


Adipocytes, Adipogenesis, Brown Adipose Tissue, Adiposity, Insulin, Insulin Resistance, Membrane Proteins, Tissue Expansion


Dissertations, UMMS; Adipocytes; Adipogenesis; Adipose Tissue, Brown; Adiposity; Insulin; Insulin Resistance; Membrane Proteins; Tissue Expansion


Adipose tissue is one of the most dynamic tissues in the body and is vital for metabolic homeostasis. In the case of excess nutrient uptake, adipose tissue expands to store excess energy in the form of lipids, and in the case of reduced nutrient intake, adipose tissue can shrink and release this energy. Adipocytes are most functional when the balance between these two processes is intact. To understand the molecular mechanisms that drive insulin resistance or conversely preserve the metabolically healthy state in obese individuals, our laboratory performed a screen for differentially regulated adipocyte genes in insulin resistant versus insulin sensitive subjects who had been matched for BMI. From this screen, we identified the type II transmembrane protein tenomodulin (TNMD), which had been previously implicated in glucose tolerance in gene association studies. TNMD was upregulated in omental fat samples isolated from the insulin resistant patient group compared to insulin sensitive individuals. TNMD was predominantly expressed in primary adipocytes compared to the stromal vascular fraction from this adipose tissue. Furthermore, TNMD expression was greatly increased in human preadipocytes by differentiation, and silencing TNMD blocked adipogenic gene induction and adipogenesis, suggesting its role in adipose tissue expansion.

Upon high fat diet feeding, transgenic mice overexpressing Tnmd specifically in adipose tissue developed increased epididymal adipose tissue (eWAT) mass without a difference in mean cell size, consistent with elevated in vitro adipogenesis. Moreover, preadipocytes isolated from transgenic epididymal adipose tissue demonstrated higher BrdU incorporation than control littermates, suggesting elevated preadipocyte proliferation. In TNMD overexpressing mice, lipogenic genes PPARG, FASN, SREBP1c and ACLY were upregulated in eWAT as was UCP-1 in brown fat, while liver triglyceride content was reduced. Transgenic animals displayed improved systemic insulin sensitivity, as demonstrated by decreased inflammation and collagen accumulation and increased Akt phosphorylation in eWAT. Thus, the data we present here suggest that TNMD plays a protective role during visceral adipose tissue expansion by promoting adipogenesis and inhibiting inflammation and tissue fibrosis.



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