Estrogen signaling interacts with Sirt1 in adipocyte autophagy
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Obesity is a rapidly growing epidemic. It is associated with preventable chronic disease and vast healthcare cost in the United States (about 200 billion per year). Therefore, dissecting pathogenic mechanisms of obesity would provide effective strategies to prevent its development and reduce related cost. Obesity is characterized by excessive expansion of white adipose tissue (WAT). Autophagy, a cellular self-digestive process, is associated with WAT expansion and may be a promising target for combating obesity. Both hormone signaling (e.g., ERα) and energy sensing factors (e.g., Sirt1) control metabolism and prevent adiposity, and in which they have been shown to play collaborate roles. However, how autophagy is involved in ERα and Sirt1's inhibitory roles on adiposity is unknown. These questions have been addressed in my dissertation studies. To address this fundamental questions, I have established a method to monitor autophagy flux during adipocyte differentiation, which better reflected the dynamic process of autophagy. Compared with preadipocytes, autophagy flux activity was increased in mature adipocytes after differentiation. And then, my thesis project has addressed three main questions. Firstly, the gender difference in visceral fat distribution (Males have higher deposit of visceral fat than females) is controlled by an estradiol (E2)-autophagy axis. In C57BL/6J and wild type control mice, a higher visceral fat mass was detected in the males than in the females, which was associated with lower expression of estrogen receptor (ER) and more active autophagy in males vs. females. ER knockout normalized this difference. Mechanistically, E2-ER- mTOR-ULK1-autophagy signaling contributed to the gender difference in visceral fat distribution. Secondly, in vitro and in vivo studies demonstrated that Sirt1 suppressed autophagy and reduced adipogenesis and adiposity via inducing mTOR-ULK1 signaling. Specific activation and overexpression of Sirt1 induced mTOR-ULK1 signaling to suppress autophagy and adipogenesis. And knockdown of Sirt1 exhibited opposite effects. The first and second studies revealed that ER and Sirt1 acted on mTOR-ULK1 signaling pathway, underlying the importance of their interaction in inhibiting autophagy and adipogenesis. As such, the third study was conducted and it unraveled that ER acted as upstream of Sirt1, possibly through its direct binding to Sirt1 promoter. Specifically, E2 signaling suppressed autophagy and adipogenesis. But when Sirt1 was knockdown, the effects of E2 on autophagy and adipogenesis were abolished. Taken together, my dissertation project underscores the importance for future research to consider gender difference and how E2-ER-autophagy axis contributes to this difference in other metabolic diseases. Also, the unraveled interaction between ERα and Sirt1 might lead to new therapeutic approach to adiposity and metabolic dysfunction in post-menopausal women or individuals with abnormal estrogen secretion. For example, dietary intervention or exercise challenge to activate Sirt1 may partially compensate estrogen deficiency.
- Doctoral Dissertations