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Jessica A Deis, Hong Guo, Yingjie Wu, Chengyu Liu, David A Bernlohr, and Xiaoli Chen

Lipocalin-2 (LCN2) has been previously characterized as an adipokine regulating thermogenic activation of brown adipose tissue and retinoic acid (RA)-induced thermogenesis in mice. The objective of this study was to explore the role and mechanism for LCN2 in the recruitment and retinoic acid-induced activation of brown-like or ‘beige’ adipocytes. We found LCN2 deficiency reduces key markers of thermogenesis including uncoupling protein-1 (UCP1) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1α (PGC-1α) in inguinal white adipose tissue (iWAT) and inguinal adipocytes derived from Lcn2 −/− mice. Lcn2 −/− inguinal adipocytes have attenuated insulin-induced upregulation of thermogenic gene expression and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38MAPK) signaling pathway activation. This is accompanied by a lower basal and maximal oxidative capacity in Lcn2 −/− inguinal adipocytes, indicating mitochondrial dysfunction. Recombinant Lcn2 was able to restore insulin-induced p38MAPK phosphorylation in both WT and Lcn2 −/− inguinal adipocytes. Rosiglitazone treatment during differentiation of Lcn2 −/− adipocytes is able to recruit beige adipocytes at a normal level, however, further activation of beige adipocytes by insulin and RA is impaired in the absence of LCN2. Further, the synergistic effect of insulin and RA on UCP1 and PGC-1α expression is markedly reduced in Lcn2 −/− inguinal adipocytes. Most intriguingly, LCN2 and the retinoic acid receptor-alpha (RAR-α) are concurrently translocated to the plasma membrane of adipocytes in response to insulin, and this insulin-induced RAR-α translocation is absent in adipocytes deficient in LCN2. Our data suggest a novel LCN2-mediated pathway by which RA and insulin synergistically regulates activation of beige adipocytes via a non-genomic pathway of RA action.

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Jie Sun, Yan Liu, Jinhui Yu, Jin Wu, Wenting Gao, Liyuan Ran, Rujiao Jiang, Meihua Guo, Dongyu Han, Bo Liu, Ning Wang, Youwei Li, He Huang, Li Zeng, Ying Gao, Xin Li, and Yingjie Wu

Astragalus polysaccharide (APS) is the main component of Astragalus membranaceus, an anti-diabetic herb being used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In this study, we aimed to evaluate the impact of APS on hepatic insulin signaling, autophagy and ER stress response in high-fat-diet (HFD)-induced insulin resistance (IR) mice. APS was intra-gastrically administrated and metformin was used as a control medicine. Apart from monitoring the changes in the important parameters of IR progression, the gene and protein expression of the key factors marking the state of hepatic ER stress and autophagic flux were examined. We found that, largely comparable to the metformin regime, APS treatment resulted in an overall improvement of IR, as indicated by better control of body weight and blood glucose/lipid levels, recovery of liver functions and regained insulin sensitivity. In particular, the excessive and pro-apoptotic ER stress response and inhibition of autophagy, as a result of prolonged HFD exposure, were significantly corrected by APS administration, indicating a switch of the cellular fate in favor of cell survival. Using the HepG2/IR cell model, we demonstrated that APS modulated the insulin-initiated phosphorylation cascades in a similar manner to metformin. This study provides a rationale for exploiting the insulin-sensitizing potential of APS, which has a therapeutic performance almost equivalent to metformin, to enrich our options in the treatment of IR.