Obesity and related metabolic disorders, such as insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes (T2D), affect over 40% of U.S. adults and increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Understanding the mechanisms connecting obesity, T2D, and defective adipocyte function bring us closer to developing therapeutic strategies. We discovered expression of the enzyme aspartoacylase (ASPA) in white adipose tissue (WAT) correlates with adipocyte function and insulin sensitivity in mice and people. In the brain, ASPA contributes to the acetate pool necessary for lipid synthesis, and ASPA deficiency causes progressive myelin degeneration and death at a young age. We also observed abundant ASPA expression in WAT at significantly higher levels than whole brain. Aspa is induced during adipocyte differentiation in vitro along with known adipogenic markers. These observations led us to hypothesize that ASPA and its metabolite byproducts regulate adipocyte differentiation and systemic energy balance. When assessing the in vivo effects of Aspa deficiency, Aspa-/- mice accumulated less body mass than Aspa+/+ when fed normal chow diet for 12 weeks. Morphometric tissue analyses indicated Aspa-/- mice maintain smaller adipocytes, corresponding with lower WAT mass at necropsy. Glucose tracing experiments suggested Aspa knockout cells exhibit greater pyruvate carboxylase (PC) anaplerosis that feeds amino acid pools for glutathione synthesis. Mass spectrometry data also indicated higher PC anaplerosis in the adipose tissues of Aspa knockout mice. Persistent and prolonged oxidative stress hinders adipocyte function and insulin sensitivity, while PC activity supports antioxidant capacity. In line with this, Aspa knockout cells showed increased expression of proteins that sustain antioxidant activities. In summary, our studies establish a new role for ASPA outside the brain that contributes to redox activities in adipocytes.


J.B.Felix: None. P.Saha: None. A.Cox: None. R.A.Sharp: None. P.M.Masschelin: None. S.M.Hartig: None.


American Diabetes Association (1-18-IBS-105 to S.M.H.); National Institutes of Health (F31DK130596, R01DK114356)

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