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Mol Biol Cell. 2010 Sep 1;21(17):2975-86. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E09-02-0133. Epub 2010 Jul 14.

Induction of liver steatosis and lipid droplet formation in ATF6alpha-knockout mice burdened with pharmacological endoplasmic reticulum stress.

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  • 1*Department of Biophysics, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan.


Accumulation of unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) activates homeostatic responses collectively termed the unfolded protein response. Among the three principal signaling pathways operating in mammals, activating transcription factor (ATF)6alpha plays a pivotal role in transcriptional induction of ER-localized molecular chaperones and folding enzymes as well as components of ER-associated degradation, and thereby mouse embryonic fibroblasts deficient in ATF6alpha are sensitive to ER stress. However, ATF6alpha-knockout mice show no apparent phenotype under normal growing conditions. In this report, we burdened mice with intraperitoneal injection of the ER stress-inducing reagent tunicamycin and found that wild-type mice were able to recover from the insult, whereas ATF6alpha-knockout mice exhibited liver dysfunction and steatosis. Thus, ATF6alpha-knockout mice accumulated neutral lipids in the liver such as triacylglycerol and cholesterol, which was ascribable to blockage of beta-oxidation of fatty acids caused by decreased mRNA levels of the enzymes involved in the process, suppression of very-low-density lipoprotein formation due to destabilized apolipoprotein B-100, and stimulation of lipid droplet formation resulting from transcriptional induction of adipose differentiation-related protein. Accordingly, the hepatocytes of tunicamycin-injected knockout mice were filled with many lipid droplets. These results establish links among ER stress, lipid metabolism, and steatosis.

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