Research ArticleMetabolism

Rho and Rho-Kinase Activity in Adipocytes Contributes to a Vicious Cycle in Obesity That May Involve Mechanical Stretch

Science Signaling  25 Jan 2011:
Vol. 4, Issue 157, pp. ra3
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2001227

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The development of obesity involves multiple mechanisms. Here, we identify adipocyte signaling through the guanosine triphosphatase Rho and its effector Rho-kinase as one such mechanism. Mice fed a high-fat diet (HFD) showed increased Rho-kinase activity in adipose tissue compared to mice fed a low-fat diet. Treatment with the Rho-kinase inhibitor fasudil attenuated weight gain and insulin resistance in mice on a HFD. Transgenic mice overexpressing an adipocyte-specific, dominant-negative form of RhoA (DN-RhoA TG mice) showed decreased Rho-kinase activity in adipocytes, decreased HFD-induced weight gain, and improved glucose metabolism compared to wild-type littermates. Furthermore, compared to HFD-fed wild-type littermates, DN-RhoA TG mice on a HFD showed decreased adipocyte hypertrophy, reduced macrophage recruitment to adipose tissue, and lower expression of mRNAs encoding various adipocytokines. Lipid accumulation in cultured adipocytes was associated with increased Rho-kinase activity and increased abundance of adipocytokine transcripts, which was reversed by a Rho-kinase inhibitor. Direct application of mechanical stretch to mature adipocytes increased Rho-kinase activity and stress fiber formation. Stress fiber formation, which was also observed in adipocytes from HFD-fed mice, was prevented by Rho-kinase inhibition and in DN-RhoA TG mice. Our findings indicate that lipid accumulation in adipocytes activates Rho to Rho-kinase (Rho–Rho-kinase) signaling at least in part through mechanical stretch and implicate Rho–Rho-kinase signaling in inflammatory changes in adipose tissue in obesity. Thus, inhibition of Rho–Rho-kinase signaling may provide a therapeutic strategy for disrupting a vicious cycle of adipocyte stretch, Rho–Rho-kinase signaling, and inflammation of adipose tissue that contributes to and aggravates obesity.

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