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Mol Cell Biol. 2001 Jan;21(1):319-29.

Essential role of insulin receptor substrate 1 in differentiation of brown adipocytes.

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  • 1Research Division, Joslin Diabetes Center, and Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


The most widely distributed members of the family of insulin receptor substrate (IRS) proteins are IRS-1 and IRS-2. These proteins participate in insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 signaling, as well as the actions of some cytokines, growth hormone, and prolactin. To more precisely define the specific role of IRS-1 in adipocyte biology, we established brown adipocyte cell lines from wild-type and IRS-1 knockout (KO) animals. Using differentiation protocols, both with and without insulin, preadipocyte cell lines derived from IRS-1 KO mice exhibited a marked decrease in differentiation and lipid accumulation (10 to 40%) compared to wild-type cells (90 to 100%). Furthermore, IRS-1 KO cells showed decreased expression of adipogenic marker proteins, such as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARgamma), CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein alpha (C/EBPalpha), fatty acid synthase, uncoupling protein-1, and glucose transporter 4. The differentiation deficit in the KO cells could be reversed almost completely by retrovirus-mediated reexpression of IRS-1, PPARgamma, or C/EBPalpha but not the thiazolidinedione troglitazone. Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) assays performed at various stages of the differentiation process revealed a strong and transient activation in IRS-1, IRS-2, and phosphotyrosine-associated PI 3-kinase in the wild-type cells, whereas the IRS-1 KO cells showed impaired phosphotyrosine-associated PI 3-kinase activation, all of which was associated with IRS-2. Akt phosphorylation was reduced in parallel with the total PI 3-kinase activity. Inhibition of PI 3-kinase with LY294002 blocked differentiation of wild-type cells. Thus, IRS-1 appears to be an important mediator of brown adipocyte maturation. Furthermore, this signaling molecule appears to exert its unique role in the differentiation process via activation of PI 3-kinase and its downstream target, Akt, and is upstream of the effects of PPARgamma and C/EBPalpha.

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