Mice null for adipocyte fatty acid binding protein (AFABP) compensate by increasing expression of keratinocyte fatty acid binding protein (KFABP) (Hotamisligil et al. Science 274:1377-1379, 1996). In the present study, AFABP knockout (KO) and wild-type (WT) mice became equally obese on a high-fat diet, as judged by fat pad weights, adipocyte size, and body composition analysis. High-fat feeding led to moderate insulin resistance in both WT and AFABP knockout mice, as indicated by an approximately 2-fold increase in plasma insulin. However, in the high fat-fed mice, plasma glucose levels were approximately 15% lower in the AFABP-KO mice. Adipocytes isolated from AFABP-KO and WT mice fed high- or low-fat diets exhibited similar rates of basal and norepinephrine-stimulated lipolysis and insulin-stimulated rates of glucose conversion to fatty acids and glyceride-glycerol. However, basal glucose conversion to fatty acids was higher in adipocytes of AFABP-KO mice. Adipocyte tumor necrosis factor-alpha release was similarly increased by high-fat diet-induced obesity in both WT and AFABP-KO mice. As assessed by Western blot analysis, the level of KFABP protein in AFABP-KOs was approximately 40% of the level of AFABP in WT controls. The binding affinities of KFABP for long-chain fatty acids were 2- to 4-fold higher than those of AFABP, but the relative affinities for different fatty acids were similar. As for AFABP, the rate of fatty acid transfer from KFABP to model phospholipid vesicles was increased with acceptor membrane concentration and by inclusion of acidic phospholipids, indicating a similar mechanism of transfer. We conclude KFABP can functionally compensate for the absence of AFABP, resulting in no major alterations in adipocyte metabolism or fat accumulation in response to short-term feeding of high-fat diets that result in moderate hyperinsulinemia.

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