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C Ruth González, María J Vázquez, Miguel López and Carlos Diéguez

The most unique feature of ghrelin is the acyl-modification of a hydroxyl group of the Ser3 in the N-terminus. The Ser3 is commonly modified by n-octanoic acid in vertebrates being needed for its biological effects, at least in terms of feeding. Therefore, a critical question regarding the role of ghrelin was to characterize the mechanism involved in its acylation. The acyltransferase that catalyzes ghrelin octanoylation has been recently identified and named ghrelin O-acyltransferase (GOAT). The aim of this study was to clarify the physiological implications of GOAT in the regulation of energy balance, by assessing the effect of undernutrition, as well as fasting in adult male rats. We have determined GOAT mRNA expression levels by real time-PCR in the stomach mucosa. Our results show that chronic food restriction led to an increase in GOAT mRNA, particularly following long-term chronic malnutrition (21 days). Furthermore, following 48 h complete fasting, a situation with high-circulating ghrelin levels, we found similar mRNA expression of GOAT in fed and fasted rats; exogenous leptin administration markedly increase GOAT mRNA levels in the stomach mucosa of fasted rats. These findings suggest that increased GOAT mRNA levels may have a role in mediating the physiological responses to chronic undernutrition and could represent an adaptive response to prevent long-lasting alterations in energy balance and body weight homeostasis. Furthermore, our data also offer mechanistic insights into the reason why during fasting acylated ghrelin levels are not increased at a time when a marked increase in an orexigenic signal as important as acylated ghrelin will be expected.

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Eva Tudurí, Monica Imbernon, Rene Javier Hernández-Bautista, Marta Tojo, Johan Fernø, Carlos Diéguez and Rubén Nogueiras

GPR55 is a G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) that has been identified as a new cannabinoid receptor. Given the wide localization of GPR55 in brain and peripheral tissues, this receptor has emerged as a regulator of multiple biological actions. Lysophosphatidylinositol (LPI) is generally accepted as the endogenous ligand of GPR55. In this review, we will focus on the role of GPR55 in energy balance and glucose metabolism. We will summarize its actions on feeding, nutrient partitioning, gastrointestinal motility and insulin secretion in preclinical models and the scarce data available in humans. The potential of GPR55 to become a new pharmaceutical target to treat obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as the foreseeing difficulties are also discussed.

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Luis Varela, María J Vázquez, Fernando Cordido, Rubén Nogueiras, Antonio Vidal-Puig, Carlos Diéguez and Miguel López

Ghrelin, the endogenous ligand of the GH secretagogue receptor, has a pleiotropic role in the modulation of energy balance. Recent evidence has demonstrated that besides its orexigenic role, ghrelin regulates central and peripheral lipid metabolism through specific control of hypothalamic AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a critical metabolic gauge regulating both cellular and whole-body energy homeostasis. In this review, we summarize the new milestones of ghrelin's actions on energy balance, with particular focus on its molecular interaction with hypothalamic AMPK and fatty acid metabolism. Understanding this new metabolic pathway can provide new therapeutic targets for the treatment of obesity and the metabolic syndrome.

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Rodolfo Gomez, Francisca Lago, Juan Gomez-Reino, Carlos Dieguez and Oreste Gualillo

The discovery of leptin in 1994 marked the beginning of a new understanding about white adipose tissue (WAT) and modified a static vision of this tissue which was viewed up to the end of the 20th century as an inert tissue, devoted to body protection from heat loss and to passively storing energy. The identification of the product of the gene obese accentuated the role of adipose tissue in the physiopathology of obesity-linked diseases, and led to the discovery of various adipokines, many of a pro-inflammatory nature. It has become progressively manifest that WAT-derived adipokines can now be considered as the fulcrum between obesity-related environmental causes, such as nutrition and lifestyle, and the biochemical shifts that lead to metabolic syndrome, inflammatory and/or autoimmune conditions, and rheumatic diseases. Herein, we review recent adipokine research, with particular emphasis to the role of leptin, adiponectin, resistin, and visfatin in chondrocyte function and skeleton, as well as in inflammatory and degenerative cartilage joint diseases.

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Marina R Pulido, Yoana Rabanal-Ruiz, Farid Almabouada, Alberto Díaz-Ruiz, María A Burrell, María J Vázquez, Justo P Castaño, Rhonda D Kineman, Raúl M Luque, Carlos Diéguez, Rafael Vázquez-Martínez and María M Malagón

There is increasing evidence that proteins associated with lipid droplets (LDs) play a key role in the coordination of lipid storage and mobilization in adipocytes. The small GTPase, RAB18, has been recently identified as a novel component of the protein coat of LDs and proposed to play a role in both β-adrenergic stimulation of lipolysis and insulin-induced lipogenesis in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. In order to better understand the role of Rab18 in the regulation of lipid metabolism in adipocytes, we evaluated the effects of age, fat location, metabolic status, and hormonal milieu on Rab18 expression in rodent white adipose tissue (WAT). Rab18 mRNA was undetectable at postnatal day 15 (P15), but reached adult levels by P45, in both male and female rats. In adult rats, Rab18 immunolocalized around LDs, as well as within the cytoplasm of mature adipocytes. A weak Rab18 signal was also detected in the stromal-vascular fraction of WAT. In mice, fasting significantly increased, though with a distinct time–course pattern, Rab18 mRNA and protein levels in visceral and subcutaneous WAT. The expression of Rab18 was also increased in visceral and subcutaneous WAT of obese mice (diet-induced, ob/ob, and New Zealand obese mice) compared with lean controls. Rab18 expression in rats was unaltered by castration, adrenalectomy, or GH deficiency but was increased by hypophysectomy, as well as hypothyroidism. When viewed together, our results suggest the participation of Rab18 in the regulation of lipid processing in adipose tissue under both normal and pathological conditions.