Caspases are cysteine-aspartic proteases that were initially discovered to play a role in apoptosis. However, caspase 8, in particular, also has additional non-apoptotic roles, such as in inflammation. Adipocyte cell death and inflammation are hypothesized to be initiating pathogenic factors in type 2 diabetes. Here, we examined the pleiotropic role of caspase 8 in adipocytes and obesity-associated insulin resistance. Caspase 8 expression was increased in adipocytes from mice and humans with obesity and insulin resistance. Treatment of 3T3-L1 adipocytes with caspase 8 inhibitor Z-IETD-FMK decreased both death receptor-mediated signaling and targets of NF-κBsignaling. We generated novel adipose tissue and adipocyte-specific caspase 8 knockout mice (aP2Casp8-/- and adipoqCasp8-/-). Both males and females had improved glucose tolerance in the setting of high fat diet (HFD) feeding. Knockout mice also gained less weight on HFD, with decreased adiposity, adipocyte size and hepatic steatosis. These mice had decreased adipose tissue inflammation and decreased activation of canonical and non-canonical NF-κB signaling. Furthermore, they demonstrated increased energy expenditure, core body temperature, and UCP1 expression. Adipocyte-specific activation of Ikbkb or housing mice at thermoneutrality attenuated improvements in glucose tolerance. These data demonstrate an important role for caspase 8 in mediating adipocyte cell death and inflammation to regulate glucose and energy homeostasis.

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