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Lab Invest. 2019 Sep 30. doi: 10.1038/s41374-019-0327-5. [Epub ahead of print]

Cannabinoid receptor 1 knockout alleviates hepatic steatosis by downregulating perilipin 2.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany.
Institute for Surgical Research, Philipps University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany.
Department of Gastroenterology CBF, Translational Medicine Oncology, Charité University Medicine Berlin and Bayer AG, Experimental Medicine Oncology, Berlin, Germany.
Institute of Medical Virology, National Reference Centre for Hepatitis B and D Viruses, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany.
Central Biotechnical Facility, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany.
Department of Gastroenterology, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany.


The endocannabinoid (EC) system has been implicated in the pathogenesis of several metabolic diseases, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). With the current study we aimed to verify the modulatory effect of endocannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1)-signaling on perilipin 2 (PLIN2)-mediated lipophagy. Here, we demonstrate that a global knockout of the cannabinoid receptor 1 gene (CB1-/-) reduced the expression of the lipid droplet binding protein PLIN2 in the livers of CB1-/- and hepatitis B surface protein (HBs)-transgenic mice, which spontaneously develop hepatic steatosis. In addition, the pharmacologic activation and antagonization of CB1 in cell culture also caused an induction or reduction of PLIN2, respectively. The decreased PLIN2 expression was associated with suppressed lipogenesis and triglyceride (TG) synthesis and enhanced autophagy as shown by increased colocalization of LC3B with lysosomal-associated membrane protein 1 (LAMP1) in HBs/CB1-/- mice. The induction of autophagy was further supported by the increased expression of LAMP1 in CB1-/- and HBs/CB1-/- mice. LAMP1 and PLIN2 were co-localized in HBs/CB1-/- indicating autophagy of cytoplasmic lipid droplets (LDs) i.e., lipophagy. Lipolysis of lipid droplets was additionally indicated by elevated expression of lysosomal acid lipase. In conclusion, these results suggest that loss of CB1 signaling leads to reduced PLIN2 abundance, which triggers lipophagy. Our new findings about the association between CB1 signaling and PLIN2 may stimulate translational studies analyzing new diagnostic and therapeutic options for NAFLD.


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