Lack of adrenal TSPO/PBR expression in hamsters reinforces correlation to triglyceride metabolism

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  • 1 Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to V Selvaraj: vs88@cornell.edu
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Despite being a highly conserved protein, the precise role of the mitochondrial translocator protein (TSPO), previously known as the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR), remains elusive. The void created by studies that overturned a presumptive model that described TSPO/PBR as a mitochondrial cholesterol transporter for steroidogenesis has been filled with evidence that it can affect mitochondrial metabolic functions across different model systems. We previously reported that TSPO/PBR deficient steroidogenic cells upregulate mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation and presented a strong positive correlation between TSPO/PBR expression and tissues active in triglyceride metabolism or lipid storage. Nevertheless, the highlighting of inconsistencies in prior work has provoked reprisals that threaten to stifle progress. One frequent factoid presented as being supportive of a cholesterol import function is that there are no steroid-synthesizing cell types without high TSPO/PBR expression. In this study, we examine the hamster adrenal gland that is devoid of lipid droplets in the cortex and largely relies on de novo cholesterol biosynthesis and uptake for steroidogenesis. We find that Tspo expression in the hamster adrenal is imperceptible compared to the mouse. This observation is consistent with a substantially low expression of Cpt1a in the hamster adrenal, indicating minimal mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation capacity compared to the mouse. These findings provide further reinforcement that the much sought-after mechanism of TSPO/PBR function remains correlated with the extent of cellular triglyceride metabolism. Thus, TSPO/PBR could have a homeostatic function relevant only to steroidogenic systems that manage triglycerides associated with lipid droplets.

 

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