This work identifies retinoic acid (RA), the acid form of vitamin A, as a signal that inhibits the expression of resistin, an adipocyte-secreted protein previously proposed to act as an inhibitor of adipocyte differentiation and as a systemic insulin resistance factor. Both 9-cis and all-trans RA reduced resistin mRNA levels in white and brown adipocyte cell model systems; the effect was time- and dose-dependent, was followed by a reduced secretion of resistin, and was reproduced by selective agonists of both RA receptors and rexinoid receptors. Association of CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein α (a positive regulator of the resistin gene) and its coactivators p300, cAMP response element-binding protein binding protein, and retinoblastoma protein with the resistin gene promoter was reduced in RA-treated adipocytes. RA administration to normal mice resulted in reduced resistin mRNA levels in brown and white adipose tissues, reduced circulating resistin levels, reduced body weight, and improved glucose tolerance. Resistin expression was also downregulated after dietary vitamin A supplementation in mice. The results raise the possibility that vitamin A status may contribute to modulate systemic functions through effects on the production of adipocyte-derived protein signals.

Adipose tissue is an important secretory organ, and genes encoding adipocyte secreted proteins (adipokines) potentially involved in the regulation of energy homeostasis, adipose tissue development, and insulin sensitivity may be the targets for nutrient interactions relevant to the likelihood of development of obesity and diabetes. One adipokine that has been claimed to be involved in the modulation of systemic insulin sensitivity is resistin, a 12.5-kDa cysteine-rich secretory protein that in the mouse is adipocyte-specific. Resistin was identified (1) in cultured 3T3-L1 adipocytes as a gene product downregulated by thiozolidinediones (TZDs), a family of antidiabetic drugs that are high-affinity ligands of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPAR-γ). A causative role of elevated resistin in obesity-associated insulin resistance remains controversial (reviewed in 24), but recent reports have demonstrated metabolic actions of resistin impairing insulin action in the liver (5) and implicated resistin in the pathophysiology of the human insulin resistance syndrome (6). Resistin is induced during differentiation of 3T3-L1 preadipocytes (1,7) and inhibits adipose conversion of these cells (7), suggesting that it may also serve as a feedback signal to restrict adipose tissue expansion.

Vitamin A is a nutrient with important effects on adipose tissue development and metabolism (reviewed in 8). Retinoic acid (RA), its carboxylic acid form, promotes (9) or inhibits (10) adipogenesis of preadipose cells in culture depending on the dose, negatively affects preadipocyte survival (11), and induces the expression of uncoupling proteins (UCPs) in cultured brown adipocytes (1214). Moreover, both RA treatment and vitamin A status influence body adiposity and the expression of adipogenic/lipogenic transcription factors and UCPs in white (WAT) and brown (BAT) adipose tissues and of UCP3 in muscle of rodents (13,1517). Most of the cellular effects of RA rely on changes in gene transcription and are mediated by two types of retinoid receptors that, like the PPARs, belong to the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily: the RA receptors (RARs), which respond to both all-trans RA and 9-cis RA, and the rexinoid receptors (RXRs), which respond specifically to 9-cis RA (reviewed in 18). Liganded retinoid receptors regulate transcription directly, through binding as RAR:RXR or RXR:RXR to specific response elements in promoter/enhancers, and indirectly, by interfering with the activity of other transcription factors. Extragenomic actions of liganded retinoid receptors (19) and effects of retinoids nonmediated by retinoid receptors (20) of potential impact on gene expression have also been described.

A number of considerations led us to hypothesize that RA could affect resistin expression. First, PPAR-γ, which is likely to mediate the inhibitory effect of TZDs on the resistin gene, regulates transcription as heterodimer with RXR, and the PPAR:RXR, unlike other RXR-containing heterodimers, can be activated by ligands of both partners (21). Second, synthetic RXR agonists behave as insulin sensitizers in rodent models of obesity and diabetes (21,22). Third, resistin gene expression is induced by CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein-α (C/EBP-α) (2325), and RA is known to inhibit the transcriptional activity of C/EBP transcription factors (26). The aim of this work was to test this hypothesis, studying retinoid regulation of resistin expression in adipocyte cell model systems and in intact mice, and gaining first insights into the molecular mechanism(s) involved and the possible functional relevance of this regulation on glucose tolerance.

(±) Arterenol bitartrate salt (norepinephrine), all-trans RA (ATRA); isopro-pyl-(E,E)-(R,S)-11-methoxy-3,7,11-trimethyldodeca-2,4-dienoate (metho-prene); and p-[(E)-2-(5,6,7,8-tetrahydro-5,5,8,8-tetramethyl-2-naphthalenyl)-1-propenyl]benzoic acid (TTNPB) were from Sigma (St. Louis, MO). 9-cis RA, Ro 40-6055, and Ro 25-7386 were gifts from Hoffmann-La Roche (Basel, Switzerland). Newborn calf serum and FBS were from Linus (Madrid, Spain), and other cell culture reagents were from Sigma.

Cell culture.

3T3-L1 murine fibroblasts (American Type Culture Collection, LGC Deselaers SL, Barcelona, Spain) were maintained in Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium (DMEM) supplemented with 10% newborn calf serum under 8% CO2/92% air at 37°C. Differentiation was induced 2 days after confluence by incubating the cells for 48 h in DMEM containing 5 μmol/l insulin, 0.5 mmol/l 3-isobutyl-1-methyl-xanthine, 0.25 μmol/l dexamethasone, and 10% FBS, followed by 48 h in DMEM containing 10% FBS and 5 μmol/l insulin (no insulin thereafter). Adipogenesis was monitored by morphologic examination of the cells for accumulation of lipid droplets. Cells were exposed to ATRA and other compounds of interest on days 6–7 after induction of differentiation, when >80% expressed the adipocyte phenotype, and RNA was routinely extracted 24 h later. In some experiments, the culture medium was collected to determine resistin protein levels. Cytotoxicity of vehicle (DMSO) and all agonists (including ATRA) of retinoid receptors at the working concentrations used was measured by the lactate dehydrogenase method (27), using a commercial kit (Roche Diagnostics, Mannheim, Germany).

BAT precursor cells from 4-week-old NMRI mice were isolated and cultured as described previously (28). Cells were exposed to RA or norepinephrine on day 7, when they had reached confluence and started to differentiate, and RNA was extracted 24 h later.

Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays.

Day 6 after hormonal onset of adipogenesis, 3T3-L1 adipocytes were treated with 0.1 μmol/l ATRA, 10 μmol/l ATRA, or vehicle (DMSO) for 24 h. Cells were then washed with PBS, submitted to cross-linking with 1% formaldehyde in PBS at 37°C for 10 min, rinsed and scraped in ice-cold PBS, centrifuged for 4 min at 700g, and resuspended in lysis buffer (1% SDS, 5 mmol/l EDTA, 50 mmol/l Tris-HCl [pH 8.1]). After a 20-min incubation on ice, samples were sonicated at 15-s pulses three times on ice. The lysates were centrifuged at 14,000g for 10 min; a small aliquot of the supernatant served as the input control, and the rest was diluted in buffer (1% Triton X-100, 2 mmol/l EDTA, 150 mmol/l NaCl, 20 mmol/l Tris-HCl [pH 8.1]) containing protease inhibitors. Samples were precleared with 2 μg of sheared salmon sperm DNA and 45 μl of protein A-Sepharose beads for 2 h.

Immunoprecipitation with antibodies against the following proteins was performed overnight: C/EBP-α, p300, cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) binding protein (CBP), retinoblastoma protein (RB), and normal rabbit IgG (all from Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Santa Cruz, CA). Samples were then incubated with 45 μl of protein A-Sepharose beads for 1 h. Precipitates were washed as described previously (23) and extracted by incubating with elution buffer (1% SDS, 0.1 mol/l NaHCO3) at 65°C for 6 h. DNA fragments were purified using a commercial kit (Qiagen, Hilden, Germany). Two to 5 μl of purified sample was used in 31 cycles of PCR. Primers surrounding the C/EBP-α site in the resistin promoter had sequences 5′-GTCTTGGCTCCTAGCCTTGC-3′ and 5′-GTTGACTTCTGGCCCATCC-3′ (23). PCR products were run on agarose gels, stained with ethidium bromide, recorded using an image recording system (Gelprinter; TDI, Madrid, Spain), and quantified using the Kodak 1D Image Analysis Software 3.5 for Windows (Eastman Kodak, Rochester, NY).

Animal studies.

Animals were obtained from CRIFFA (Barcelona, Spain) and were treated in accordance with our institutional guidelines.

RA treatment experiment.

Twelve-week-old NMRI male mice that were fed regular diet (Panlab, Barcelona, Spain) received one daily subcutaneous injection of ATRA at a dose of 10, 50, or 100 mg/kg body wt during the 4 days before they were killed (seven animals/group). Controls received the vehicle (olive oil).

Vitamin A supplementation experiments.

Four-week-old C57BL/6J (B6) male mice were fed either a normal-fat or a high-fat diet (10 and 45% of total energy as fat, mainly lard, respectively) with either the standard vitamin A content or a 40-fold excess (8 mg and 320 mg retinyl palmitate/kg diet, respectively) for 18 weeks, as previously described (17) (four animals/group). In an independent experiment, 4-week-old NMRI mice were fed the normal-fat diet supplemented or not with vitamin A for 11 weeks (six animals/group). Diets were from Research Diets (New Brunswick, NJ). The vitamin A-supplemented animals did not show any external signs of vitamin A toxicity or significant liver enlargement.

The animals were kept at 22°C under 12-h light/dark cycles (lights on at 0800) and were killed with CO2 followed by decapitation at the start of the light cycle. Blood was collected from the neck, and serum was prepared and frozen at −20°C. Interscapular BAT (iBAT), inguinal WAT (iWAT), and epididymal WAT (eWAT) were excised in their entirety, weighed, frozen in liquid nitrogen, and stored at −70°C.

Glucose tolerance tests.

Tests were conducted in four 12-week-old NMRI male mice and in the same animals 1 week later, after they had received four subcutaneous injections of ATRA (at a dose of 100 mg/kg body wt, in 100 μl of olive oil; one daily injection the 4 days preceding the test). Glucose (3.375 g/kg animal) was administered intraperitoneally after a 6-h fast (from 2400 to 0600), and glucose levels were measured in tail blood collected at the indicated times.

RNA extraction and Northern blotting.

Total RNA was extracted with TriPure reagent (Roche Diagnostics). Ten to 20 μg was fractionated by agarose gel electrophoresis, blotted onto a nylon membrane by capillary blotting, fixed with ultraviolet light, and hybridized as described previously (17). An antisense oligonucleotide (5′-TCCCACGAGCCACAGGCAGAGCCACAGGAGCAGC-3′) based on the mouse resistin cDNA sequence labeled at both ends with a single digoxigenin ligand was used as a hybridization probe (29). Hybridization signals were detected by chemiluminescence using CDP-Star (Roche Diagnostics) as the substrate, with membranes exposed to Hyperfilm ECL (Amersham Biosciences UK, Buckinghamshire, U.K.) for up to 60 min. Bands in films were analyzed by scanner photodensitometry and quantified as described above. Blots were stripped and reprobed for other mRNAs of interest and 18S rRNA to check equal loading of gels and transfer efficiency. Antisense oligonucleotides used to detect leptin mRNA, UCP1 mRNA, and 18S rRNA were as described previously (17).

Western blotting.

A total of 50 μl of culture medium or 10 μl of serum was solubilized and boiled in Laemmli sample buffer containing 20% 2-mercaptoethanol, fractionated in 15% SDS-PAGE gels, and electrophoretically transferred onto nitrocellulose membranes. Blots were stained with Ponceau S solution to visualize the amount of total protein in each lane. After blocking in PBS-Tween containing 5% fat-free dried milk, membranes were incubated with a polyclonal antibody against mouse resistin (1:1,000; Linco Research, St. Charles, MO) for 1 h, washed, and incubated with a horseradish peroxidase-conjugated secondary antibody (1:10000; Research Diagnostics, Flanders, NJ). Blots were developed using an enhanced chemiluminescence Western blotting analysis system (Amersham Biosciences UK). Bands in films were analyzed and quantified as described above.

Other parameters determined.

Circulating levels of triacylglycerols, glucose, and insulin were determined using commercial kits (Triglyceride [INT]20 from Sigma Diagnostics; d-glucose ultraviolet method from Roche Biopharm, Darmstadt, Germany; and rat-insulin enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay from DRG Instruments, Marburg, Germany, respectively).

Statistical analysis.

Data are expressed as mean ± SE. Statistical significance was assessed by Student’s t test or by one- or two-way ANOVA followed by least-significant difference and Student’s t test post hoc comparisons, respectively. The minimum significance level was set at P < 0.05.

RA inhibited resistin expression in brown and white adipocytes differentiated in culture.

Resistin mRNA levels were dose-dependently downregulated by ATRA and 9-cis RA both in primary brown adipocytes differentiated in culture and in 3T3-L1 white adipocytes (Fig. 1A and B). In both cell systems, ATRA was more effective than 9-cis RA. As little as 0.01 μmol/l ATRA reduced resistin mRNA levels by 80% in primary brown adipocytes and by 60% in 3T3-L1 white adipocytes. In the brown adipocytes, this dose was insufficient to trigger the induction of the UCP1 gene, which was triggered, as expected (12,13), by higher doses of the retinoids (Fig. 1A). The inhibitory effect of RA isomers on resistin expression in brown adipocytes was only partially reproduced by 1 μmol/l norepinephrine, which, similar to retinoids, induced the expression of the UCP1 gene, as expected (Northern blot in Fig. 1A). The inhibitory effect of retinoids on resistin mRNA levels exhibited a relatively lengthy time course, with a half-maximal reduction observed after ∼10 h of exposure of 3T3-L1 adipocytes to 1 μmol/l ATRA (Fig. 1C), and was followed by reduced resistin accumulation in the culture medium (Fig. 1D). Expression of resistin transcripts in differentiated primary brown adipocytes agrees with the recently reported differentiation-dependent expression of resistin in the brown adipocyte cell line T37i (30).

Both RAR- and RXR-dependent pathways seem to mediate the inhibition of resistin expression by retinoids.

We assayed whether nonisomerizable synthetic compounds that selectively bind and activate RARs or RXRs could reproduce the inhibitory effect of RA on resistin gene expression in 3T3-L1 adipocytes (Table 1). Both TTNPB, which activates all RAR subtypes, and Ro 40-6055, a selective RAR-α agonist, reduced resistin mRNA abundance in a dose-dependent manner. The pan-RAR agonist was more effective than the selective RAR-α agonist, suggesting that different RAR subtypes mediate the inhibitory effect of RA on the resistin gene. Although with lower potency than ATRA and TTNPB, methoprene, a pan-RXR agonist, and Ro 25-7386, a selective RXR-α agonist, also reduced resistin mRNA abundance in a dose-dependent manner; the two compounds were similarly effective, reproducing the inhibitory effect of 1 μmol/l ATRA at 100 μmol/l, which for methoprene is the concentration known to activate RXR in mammalian cells (31). Only TTNPB and Ro 25-7386 at the highest concentration tested (100 μmol/l) had a significant cytotoxic effect over vehicle (DMSO), leading to a 2.6–2.8 increment of lactate dehydrogenase activity in the medium (P < 0.001 for both compounds, Student’s t test).

RA treatment reduced the association of C/EBP-α and C/EBP-α coactivators with the resistin gene promoter in 3T3-L1 adipocytes.

We reasoned that the inhibitory effect of RA on resistin expression could result, at least in part, from impaired binding of C/EBP-α and/or its coactivators to the resistin gene promoter. To test this, we performed chromatin immunoprecipitation assays measuring C/EBP-α, p300, CBP, and RB association with a proximal region of the resistin promoter containing the C/EBP-α binding site (23) in mature 3T3-L1 adipocytes treated with ATRA (0.1 and 10 μmol/l) or vehicle for 24 h. p300 coactivates C/EBP-α (32), and both p300 and the closely related coactivator CBP were reported to be recruited to the mouse resistin gene promoter in differentiated 3T3-L1 mature adipocytes through their interaction with DNA-bound C/EBP-α (23). Hypophosphorylated RB also coactivates C/EBP-α, this activity being of importance for adipocyte terminal differentiation (3335). At 10 μmol/l, ATRA treatment resulted in reduced association of C/EBP-α, p300, CBP, and RB with the resistin gene promoter by 45 ± 9%, 33 ± 10%, 27 ± 6%, and 46 ± 12%, respectively (n = 4; Fig. 2). The reduced association of C/EBP-α and its coactivators to the resistin gene promoter was already evident or even more marked in the cells that were treated with 0.1 μmol/l ATRA (Fig. 2).

RA administration reduced adipose tissue resistin mRNA levels and circulating resistin levels and improved glucose tolerance in mice.

Resistin mRNA levels in eWAT, iWAT, and iBAT (Fig. 3) and serum resistin levels (Fig. 4) were severely reduced in ATRA-treated NMRI mice. In accordance with previous reports (15,36), RA administration also triggered a reduction of adipose tissue leptin expression that was evident in the three depots (Fig. 3) and a reduction of body weight and of the mass of all fat pads analyzed (Table 2).

Circulating levels of insulin, glucose, and triacylglycerols in ad libitum feeding conditions trended lower in the ATRA-treated NMRI mice (Table 2), suggesting an improvement of insulin sensitivity. To address this further, we performed glucose tolerance tests in a separate group of NMRI mice before and after ATRA administration. The treatment triggered a 13.3% reduction of body weight. Circulating glucose levels at 0, 30, 90, and 180 min after the glucose load were, respectively, 4.0 ± 0.5, 28.9 ± 1.9, 16.6 ± 2.8, and 9.4 ± 0.6 mmol/l before the ATRA treatment and 4.6 ± 0.2, 21.0 ± 3.7, 9.6 ± 1.9, and 4.4 ± 0.8 mmol/l afterward. The difference was of statistical significance at t = 180 min (P = 0.002, Student’s t test). The area under the glucose curve was 39.5 ± 3 cm2 before ATRA treatment and 25.6 ± 3.6 cm2 after it, indicating a statistically significant (P = 0.025, Student’s t test) enhancement of glucose disposal upon ATRA treatment.

Dietary vitamin A supplementation reduced adipose tissue resistin mRNA levels and circulating resistin levels in mice.

We analyzed resistin expression in mice that were chronically fed diets with a 40-fold excess of vitamin A relative to the usual content (Table 3). A similar dietary manipulation was previously shown to result in a high vitamin A status in rats, as revealed by the increment of liver retinol concentration (37). Our assumption was that supplementation could result in increased availability of RA to tissues and could reproduce, at least in part, the effects of acute RA treatment. In fact, in both rats and mice, vitamin A supplementation was shown to reproduce the effects of acute RA doses downregulating leptin expression and upregulating UCP1 expression (17,37).

Resistin mRNA levels in eWAT and circulating resistin levels were reduced in both B6 and NMRI mice that were chronically fed a normal-fat high-vitamin A diet (for 18 and 11 weeks, respectively) compared with controls that were fed the same diet with the normal vitamin A content. Vitamin A supplementation did not significantly affect body weight or adiposity of either B6 (17) or NMRI mice, although in the latter, the two parameters trended lower after supplementation (by 9.7 and 30%, respectively). In the obesity-prone B6 mice, high-fat diet feeding for 18 weeks caused 26% overweight, as reported previously (17), and a significant reduction of both eWAT resistin mRNA levels and serum resistin levels. Supplementation of the high-fat diet with vitamin A did not affect the final obesity reached (17) and did not lead to further significant decreases of eWAT resistin mRNA levels or serum resistin levels.

The present study shows that RA inhibits resistin expression in adipocyte cell model systems and in vivo, after its administration to intact mice, both at mRNA and protein levels. Both RAR and RXR agonist reproduced the inhibitory effect of RA on resistin expression in 3T3-L1 adipocytes, strongly suggesting that both RAR- and RXR-dependent signaling pathways mediate the RA effect. Liganded RXR may be acting as a heterodimer with PPAR-γ, which, although results are conflicting (3840), has been previously implicated in the inhibition of the resistin gene (1,23,24,4143). Indeed, the finding that both PPAR-γ agonists and RXR agonists—including the endogenous ligand, as first demonstrated here—inhibit resistin gene transcription reinforces the idea of the involvement of PPAR-γ:RXR, because this entity is known to respond to ligands of both partners (21). In any case, our results are the first to suggest that not only liganded RXR but also liganded RARs can repress resistin gene transcription.

Liganded retinoid receptors may act on the resistin gene through different, nonmutually exclusive mechanisms. The fact that the inhibitory effect of both ATRA (Fig. 1C) and the TZD PPAR-γ ligand rosiglitazone (23) on resistin expression in 3T3-L1 adipocytes follows a relatively lengthy time course suggests that liganded PPAR-γ:RXR may be inducing a protein or proteins that repress resistin gene transcription. Our chromatin immunoprecipitation assay results (Fig. 2) indicate that impairment of C/EBP-α activity on the resistin promoter may also contribute to the ATRA effect. We favor the idea that this impairment is mediated by RARs because liganded RARs are known to interfere with the transcriptional activity of C/EBPs (26); in addition, rosiglitazone treatment did not affect the occupancy of the resistin promoter by C/EBP-α or p300/CBP (23), making it unlikely that the interference detected here is mediated by liganded PPAR-γ:RXR. Liganded retinoid receptors may also repress resistin gene expression through direct binding to negative RA and/or PPAR response elements in its promoter or in an enhancer. No conventional RA response elements were reported in the promoter region of either the mouse or the human resistin gene analyzed to date (23,25), and no functional PPAR-γ binding site was found within 6.2 kb upstream of the transcriptional start site of the mouse resistin gene (23), but it remains possible that negative response elements are present at other locations.

Both resistin and leptin mRNA levels were reduced in adipose tissues of ATRA-treated NMRI mice (Fig. 3). These results add to the striking similarity between the regulation of these two adipokines, both of which seem to be negatively controlled by PPAR-γ (23,24,44) and positively controlled by C/EBP-α (23,24,45) at the transcriptional level. Acute RA treatment causes in rodents a reduction of body weight and adiposity, not explained solely by the observed changes in food intake, that has been reproduced here (Table 2) and was previously shown to correlate with a depressed adipogenic/lipogenic potential in adipose tissues (16) and an increased expression of UCPs in BAT and muscle (13,15,17). Teleologically, reduction of both a signal that inhibits food intake and enhances energy expenditure (leptin) and a signal that may function as an inhibitor of adipocyte differentiation and as a resistance factor to the anabolic action of insulin (resistin) may be part of a security mechanism to avoid fat depletion in the context of an overall effect of high RA doses promoting fat mobilization.

An improvement of glucose tolerance paralleled the reduction of adipose tissue resistin mRNA and circulating resistin levels in ATRA-treated NMRI mice, which is compatible with resistin’s acting as an insulin-resistance factor in normal mice. However, it is likely that the improvement of glucose tolerance is, at least in part, a secondary response to the reduction of body weight elicited by ATRA treatment. In addition, other effects of ATRA that may contribute to changes in glucose tolerance—including effects on the expression and circulating levels of other adipokines potentially related to insulin sensitivity, such as tumor necrosis factor-α or adiponectin—cannot be discarded. Further studies are needed to evaluate precisely the relationship among vitamin A status, insulin sensitivity, and adipokine expression.

Not only acute ATRA treatment but also chronic dietary vitamin A supplementation reduced resistin expression, as evidenced in two different strains of mice (Table 3). Remarkably, although resistin expression was reduced in high-fat diet-fed B6 mice as compared with their lean controls, the inhibitory effects of high-fat diet and vitamin A supplementation on the resistin gene were not additive (Table 3), suggesting that common mechanisms are involved. Reduced resistin mRNA levels in fat depots of obese animals is well established (reviewed in 24). Concerning circulating resistin, our finding of reduced levels in obese B6 mice is in line with results of Rajala et al. (46) and Maebuchi et al. (47) and in contrast with the increased serum levels reported by Steppan et al. (1) in rodents with genetic and diet-induced obesity and diabetes. Changes of circulating resistin in human obesity are also controversial (48,49). The explanation for these differences is unclear: for diet-induced obesity models, it may be related to differences in the composition of the high-fat diets used. Reduced circulating resistin in obese animals apparently conflicts with resistin’s being a critical link between obesity and insulin resistance. However, as noted previously (4), the correlation between circulating levels of a bioactive peptide and its effects may not be linear, because receptor and postreceptor mechanisms (which for resistin are largely unknown) may be critical.

Gene-nutrient interactions are likely to contribute to the current epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes in industrialized societies. The inhibition of resistin expression by vitamin A characterized in this work may be a specific gene-nutrient interaction of interest in this context, in view of the potential relationship of resistin with insulin resistance, which is currently the subject of an intense debate (24).

FIG. 1.

Inhibition of resistin expression in brown and white adipocyte cell model systems by RA. A: Dose-dependence curve of the effect of 9-cis RA and ATRA on resistin and UCP1 mRNA levels in mouse primary brown adipocytes differentiated in culture. Confluent cells were treated with vehicle (C) or the retinoids for 24 h before harvesting and RNA extraction. Representative Northern blots of the effect of ATRA and 1 μmol/l norepinephrine (NA) are shown at the bottom. B: Dose-dependence curve of the effect of 9-cis RA and ATRA on resistin mRNA levels in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Eighty percent differentiated cultures were treated with vehicle (C) or the retinoids for 24 h before harvesting and RNA extraction. Representative Northern blots of the effect of ATRA are shown at the bottom. C: Time course of the downregulatory effect of RA on resistin mRNA levels in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Differentiated cells were harvested at the indicated time intervals after addition of 1 μmol/l ATRA. Representative Northern blots are shown at the bottom. D: Inhibition of resistin secretion by RA in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. At time 0, the culture medium in contact with the differentiated cells was changed, and 1 μmol/l ATRA or vehicle (control) was added. The culture medium was collected at the indicated time intervals after retinoid/vehicle addition and used to determine resistin protein levels. Representative Western blots are shown at the bottom. Data are means ± SE of duplicates of at least two independent experiments. Student’s t test significances, P < 0.05: *ATRA vs. control; #9-cis RA vs. control; †time point vs. time 0.

FIG. 1.

Inhibition of resistin expression in brown and white adipocyte cell model systems by RA. A: Dose-dependence curve of the effect of 9-cis RA and ATRA on resistin and UCP1 mRNA levels in mouse primary brown adipocytes differentiated in culture. Confluent cells were treated with vehicle (C) or the retinoids for 24 h before harvesting and RNA extraction. Representative Northern blots of the effect of ATRA and 1 μmol/l norepinephrine (NA) are shown at the bottom. B: Dose-dependence curve of the effect of 9-cis RA and ATRA on resistin mRNA levels in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Eighty percent differentiated cultures were treated with vehicle (C) or the retinoids for 24 h before harvesting and RNA extraction. Representative Northern blots of the effect of ATRA are shown at the bottom. C: Time course of the downregulatory effect of RA on resistin mRNA levels in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Differentiated cells were harvested at the indicated time intervals after addition of 1 μmol/l ATRA. Representative Northern blots are shown at the bottom. D: Inhibition of resistin secretion by RA in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. At time 0, the culture medium in contact with the differentiated cells was changed, and 1 μmol/l ATRA or vehicle (control) was added. The culture medium was collected at the indicated time intervals after retinoid/vehicle addition and used to determine resistin protein levels. Representative Western blots are shown at the bottom. Data are means ± SE of duplicates of at least two independent experiments. Student’s t test significances, P < 0.05: *ATRA vs. control; #9-cis RA vs. control; †time point vs. time 0.

FIG. 2.

Effect of RA on the association of C/EBP-α and C/EBP-α coactivators with the resistin gene promoter in vivo. Differentiated 3T3-L1 adipocytes were treated with vehicle or ATRA (0.1 and 10 μmol/l) for 24 h before formaldehyde cross-linking and harvesting. Cross-linked fragmented chromatin was incubated with a nonspecific IgG antibody (mock) and with antibodies against C/EBP-α, p300, CBP, and RB. Relative abundance of the resistin gene in the immunoprecipitated DNA was analyzed by PCR using primers surrounding the C/EBP-α binding site in the resistin gene promoter amplifying a 219-bp fragment DNA. Fragmented chromatin not subjected to immunoprecipitation served as input control.

FIG. 2.

Effect of RA on the association of C/EBP-α and C/EBP-α coactivators with the resistin gene promoter in vivo. Differentiated 3T3-L1 adipocytes were treated with vehicle or ATRA (0.1 and 10 μmol/l) for 24 h before formaldehyde cross-linking and harvesting. Cross-linked fragmented chromatin was incubated with a nonspecific IgG antibody (mock) and with antibodies against C/EBP-α, p300, CBP, and RB. Relative abundance of the resistin gene in the immunoprecipitated DNA was analyzed by PCR using primers surrounding the C/EBP-α binding site in the resistin gene promoter amplifying a 219-bp fragment DNA. Fragmented chromatin not subjected to immunoprecipitation served as input control.

FIG. 3.

Downregulation of resistin and leptin expression in WAT and BAT of NMRI mice by RA treatment. Twelve-week-old NMRI male mice were treated with ATRA (daily subcutaneous injection during the 4 days before they were killed) at a dose of 10, 50, or 100 mg/kg body wt. Control animals received the vehicle (olive oil). Data are means ± SE of seven animals per group. Leptin and resistin mRNA levels in adipose tissues were determined by Northern blotting. Student’s t test significances, P < 0.05: *ATRA injected vs. vehicle injected.

FIG. 3.

Downregulation of resistin and leptin expression in WAT and BAT of NMRI mice by RA treatment. Twelve-week-old NMRI male mice were treated with ATRA (daily subcutaneous injection during the 4 days before they were killed) at a dose of 10, 50, or 100 mg/kg body wt. Control animals received the vehicle (olive oil). Data are means ± SE of seven animals per group. Leptin and resistin mRNA levels in adipose tissues were determined by Northern blotting. Student’s t test significances, P < 0.05: *ATRA injected vs. vehicle injected.

FIG. 4.

Reduction of circulating resistin levels in NMRI mice by RA treatment. Animal groups were as described in the legend to Fig. 3. Resistin levels were determined in 10 μl of serum by Western blotting. Data are means ± SE of seven animals per group. Representative blots are shown inside the figure. Student’s t test significances, P < 0.05: *ATRA injected vs. vehicle injected.

FIG. 4.

Reduction of circulating resistin levels in NMRI mice by RA treatment. Animal groups were as described in the legend to Fig. 3. Resistin levels were determined in 10 μl of serum by Western blotting. Data are means ± SE of seven animals per group. Representative blots are shown inside the figure. Student’s t test significances, P < 0.05: *ATRA injected vs. vehicle injected.

TABLE 1

Effect of RAR and RXR agonists on resistin mRNA levels in 3T3-L1 adipocytes

TreatmentResistin mRNA (%)
Vehicle (DMSO) 100 ± 7.9 
ATRA  
 1 μmol/l 27.3 ± 3.4* 
Ro 40-6055  
 1 μmol/l 52.5 ± 13.9* 
 10 μmol/l 45.1 ± 4.2* 
 100 μmol/l 14.4 ± 2* 
TTNPB  
 1 μmol/l 27.1 ± 4.4* 
 10 μmol/l 10.2 ± 2.4* 
 100 μmol/l 3.8 ± 0.4* 
Ro 25-7386  
 1 μmol/l 88.8 ± 13 
 10 μmol/l 54.9 ± 10.5* 
 100 μmol/l 20.5 ± 2.1* 
Methoprene  
 1 μmol/l 69.4 ± 14.4 
 10 μmol/l 54.9 ± 4.5* 
 100 μmol/l 15.2 ± 5.4* 
TreatmentResistin mRNA (%)
Vehicle (DMSO) 100 ± 7.9 
ATRA  
 1 μmol/l 27.3 ± 3.4* 
Ro 40-6055  
 1 μmol/l 52.5 ± 13.9* 
 10 μmol/l 45.1 ± 4.2* 
 100 μmol/l 14.4 ± 2* 
TTNPB  
 1 μmol/l 27.1 ± 4.4* 
 10 μmol/l 10.2 ± 2.4* 
 100 μmol/l 3.8 ± 0.4* 
Ro 25-7386  
 1 μmol/l 88.8 ± 13 
 10 μmol/l 54.9 ± 10.5* 
 100 μmol/l 20.5 ± 2.1* 
Methoprene  
 1 μmol/l 69.4 ± 14.4 
 10 μmol/l 54.9 ± 4.5* 
 100 μmol/l 15.2 ± 5.4* 

Eighty percent differentiated cultures were treated as indicated 24 h before harvesting and RNA extraction. Data are means ± SE of duplicate plates of two independent experiments. Student’s t test significances, P < 0.05:

*

agonist vs. vehicle. Ro 40-6055, RAR-α agonist; TTNPB, agonist of all RARs; Ro 25-7386, RXR-α agonist; methoprene, agonist of all RXRs.

TABLE 2

Effects of ATRA administration on body weight, food intake, fat-pad mass, and circulating parameters of NMRI mice

Control10 mg · kg−1 · day−150 mg · kg−1 · day−1100 mg · kg−1 · day−1ANOVA
Body weight before treatment (g) 45.2 ± 1.7 44.4 ± 0.9 45.7 ± 1.5 43.9 ± 1.4  
Body weight after treatment (g) 46.2 ± 1.5a 41.5 ± 1.1b 38.8 ± 1.3bc 37.5 ± 1.2c RA 
Food intake during treatment (kcal · g animal−1 · day−1398 ± 16 329 ± 16 404 ± 70 350 ± 27  
iBAT mass (mg) 206 ± 17a 121 ± 12b 90 ± 8b 85 ± 8b RA 
eWAT mass (mg) 1,151 ± 133 926 ± 138 885 ± 78 821 ± 148  
iWAT mass (mg) 592 ± 54a 524 ± 52ab 431 ± 47bc 370 ± 36c RA 
Serum insulin (pmol/l) 15.7 ± 3.3 13.4 ± 3.1 11.0 ± 1.9 12.2 ± 1.8  
Serum triacylglycerol (mmol/l) 3.73 ± 0.38a 1.91 ± 0.13b 1.72 ± 0.25b 2.22 ± 0.23b RA 
Serum glucose (mmol/l) 7.69 ± 0.67 7.37 ± 0.58 6.88 ± 0.41 7.07 ± 0.71  
Control10 mg · kg−1 · day−150 mg · kg−1 · day−1100 mg · kg−1 · day−1ANOVA
Body weight before treatment (g) 45.2 ± 1.7 44.4 ± 0.9 45.7 ± 1.5 43.9 ± 1.4  
Body weight after treatment (g) 46.2 ± 1.5a 41.5 ± 1.1b 38.8 ± 1.3bc 37.5 ± 1.2c RA 
Food intake during treatment (kcal · g animal−1 · day−1398 ± 16 329 ± 16 404 ± 70 350 ± 27  
iBAT mass (mg) 206 ± 17a 121 ± 12b 90 ± 8b 85 ± 8b RA 
eWAT mass (mg) 1,151 ± 133 926 ± 138 885 ± 78 821 ± 148  
iWAT mass (mg) 592 ± 54a 524 ± 52ab 431 ± 47bc 370 ± 36c RA 
Serum insulin (pmol/l) 15.7 ± 3.3 13.4 ± 3.1 11.0 ± 1.9 12.2 ± 1.8  
Serum triacylglycerol (mmol/l) 3.73 ± 0.38a 1.91 ± 0.13b 1.72 ± 0.25b 2.22 ± 0.23b RA 
Serum glucose (mmol/l) 7.69 ± 0.67 7.37 ± 0.58 6.88 ± 0.41 7.07 ± 0.71  

Twelve-week-old NMRI male mice received a daily subcutaneous injection of ATRA at a dose of 10, 50, or 100 mg/kg body wt during the 4 days before they were killed. Control animals received vehicle (olive oil). Data are means ± SE of seven animals per group. ANOVA significances P < 0.05: RA, effect of ATRA treatment. Values within a row not sharing a common letter are statistically different by least significant difference post hoc comparison (P < 0.05).

TABLE 3

Effect of chronic dietary vitamin A supplementation on eWAT resistin mRNA levels and circulating resistin levels in B6 and NMRI mice

NFNF + AHFHF + AANOVA
B6 mice      
 eWAT resistin mRNA levels (%) 100 ± 10.6 40.5 ± 14.1* 41.5 ± 8.4 27.9 ± 5.5 F, A, FxA 
 Serum resistin levels (%) 100 ± 7.4 45.9 ± 12.4* 44.8 ± 12.1 45.0 ± 11.3 F, A, FxA 
NMRI mice      
 eWAT resistin mRNA levels (%) 100 ± 6.8 65.0 ± 5.4*    
 Serum resistin levels (%) 100 ± 11.1 61.3 ± 10.0*    
NFNF + AHFHF + AANOVA
B6 mice      
 eWAT resistin mRNA levels (%) 100 ± 10.6 40.5 ± 14.1* 41.5 ± 8.4 27.9 ± 5.5 F, A, FxA 
 Serum resistin levels (%) 100 ± 7.4 45.9 ± 12.4* 44.8 ± 12.1 45.0 ± 11.3 F, A, FxA 
NMRI mice      
 eWAT resistin mRNA levels (%) 100 ± 6.8 65.0 ± 5.4*    
 Serum resistin levels (%) 100 ± 11.1 61.3 ± 10.0*    

Four-week-old B6 mice were fed one of the following diets for 18 weeks: a normal-fat diet with the standard vitamin A content (NF group), a normal-fat diet with a 40-fold excess vitamin A (NF + A group), a high-fat diet with the standard vitamin A content (HF group), or a high-fat diet with a 40-fold excess vitamin A (HF + A group). In an independent experiment, 4-week-old NMRI mice were fed the normal-fat diet with the standard vitamin A content or a 40-fold excess vitamin A for 11 weeks. Data are means ± SE of four to six animals per group and are expressed relative to the mean value of the corresponding NF group, which was set at 100%. ANOVA significances, P < 0.05: F, effect of high-fat diet; A, effect of dietary vitamin A supplementation; FxA, interaction of high-fat diet and vitamin A supplementation. Student’s t test significances, P < 0.05:

*

vitamin A supplemented vs. nonsupplemented;

high fat vs. normal fat.

This work was supported by the Spanish Government (Dirección General de Investigación, BFI2000-0988-C06-01; Ministerio de Sanidad y Consumo, FIS 01/1379 and G03/028), and the European Union (COST Action 918; DLARFID project, QLRT-2001-00183). F.F. was the recipient of a doctoral fellowship from the Spanish Government.

We thank Dr. Francisca Serra for defining the resistin probe used in the Northern blot analysis.

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