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Laura M Clart, Rebecca J. Welly, Eric D Queathem, R. Scott Rector, Jaume Padilla, Christopher P Baines, Jill A Kanaley, Dennis B Lubahn, and Victoria J Vieira-Potter

Estrogen receptor  (ERb), one of the two major estrogen receptors, acts via genomic and non-genomic signaling pathways to affect many metabolic functions, including mitochondrial biogenesis and respiration. This study assessed the effect of ERb classical genomic activity on adipocyte-specific and systemic metabolic responses to wheel running exercise in a rodent model of menopause. Female mice lacking the ERb DNA-binding domain (ERbDBDKO, N = 20) and wild-type (WT, N = 21) littermate controls were fed high-fat diet (HFD), ovariectomized (OVX), and randomized to control (no running wheel) and exercise (running wheel access) groups and were followed for eight weeks. Wheel running did not confer protection against metabolic dysfunction associated with HFD+OVX in either ERbDBDKO or WT mice, despite increased energy expenditure. Unexpectedly, in the ERbDBDKO group, wheel running increased fasting insulin and surrogate measures of insulin resistance, and modestly increased adipose tissue inflammatory gene expression (P<0.05). These changes were not accompanied by significant changes in adipocyte mitochondrial respiration. It was demonstrated for the first time, that female WT OVX mice do experience exercise-induced browning of white adipose tissue, indicated by a robust increase in uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) (P<0.05). However, KO mice were completely resistant to this effect, indicating that full ERb genomic activity is required for exercise-induced browning. The inability to upregulate UCP1 with exercise following OVX may have resulted in the increased insulin resistance observed in KO mice, a hypothesis requiring further investigation.

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Stephanie L Clookey, Rebecca J Welly, Terese M Zidon, Michelle L Gastecki, Makenzie L Woodford, Zachary I Grunewald, Nathan C Winn, Dusti Eaton, Natalia G Karasseva, Harold S Sacks, Jaume Padilla, and Victoria J Vieira-Potter

Premenopausal females are protected against adipose tissue inflammation and insulin resistance, until loss of ovarian hormone production (e.g., menopause). There is some evidence that females have greater brown adipose tissue (BAT) thermogenic capacity. Because BAT mass correlates inversely with insulin resistance, we hypothesized that increased uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) expression contributes to the superior metabolic health of females. Given that UCP1 transiently increases in BAT following ovariectomy (OVX), we hypothesized that UCP1 may ‘buffer’ OVX-mediated metabolic dysfunction. Accordingly, female UCP1-knockout (KO) and WT mice received OVX or sham (SHM) surgeries at 12 weeks of age creating four groups (n = 10/group), which were followed for 14 weeks and compared for body weight and adiposity, food intake, energy expenditure and spontaneous physical activity (metabolic chambers), insulin resistance (HOMA-IR, ADIPO-IR and glucose tolerance testing) and adipose tissue phenotype (histology, gene and protein expression). Two-way ANOVA was used to assess the main effects of genotype (G), OVX treatment (O) and genotype by treatment (GxO) interactions, which were considered significant when P ≤ 0.05. UCP1KO mice experienced a more adverse metabolic response to OVX than WT. Whereas OVX-induced weight gain was not synergistically greater for KO compared to WT (GxO, NS), OVX-induced insulin resistance was significantly exacerbated in KO compared to WT (GxO for HOMA-IR, P < 0.05). These results suggest UCP1 is protective against metabolic dysfunction associated with loss of ovarian hormones and support the need for more research into therapeutics to selectively target UCP1 for prevention and treatment of metabolic dysfunction following ovarian hormone loss.

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Jay W Porter, Joe L Rowles III, Justin A Fletcher, Terese M Zidon, Nathan C Winn, Leighton T McCabe, Young-Min Park, James W Perfield II, John P Thyfault, R Scott Rector, Jaume Padilla, and Victoria J Vieira-Potter

Exercise enhances insulin sensitivity; it also improves adipocyte metabolism and reduces adipose tissue inflammation through poorly defined mechanisms. Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) is a pleiotropic hormone-like protein whose insulin-sensitizing properties are predominantly mediated via receptor signaling in adipose tissue (AT). Recently, FGF21 has also been demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory properties. Meanwhile, an association between exercise and increased circulating FGF21 levels has been reported in some, but not all studies. Thus, the role that FGF21 plays in mediating the positive metabolic effects of exercise in AT are unclear. In this study, FGF21-knockout (KO) mice were used to directly assess the role of FGF21 in mediating the metabolic and anti-inflammatory effects of exercise on white AT (WAT) and brown AT (BAT). Male FGF21KO and wild-type mice were provided running wheels or remained sedentary for 8 weeks (n = 9–15/group) and compared for adiposity, insulin sensitivity (i.e., HOMA-IR, Adipo-IR) and AT inflammation and metabolic function (e.g., mitochondrial enzyme activity, subunit content). Adiposity and Adipo-IR were increased in FGF21KO mice and decreased by EX. The BAT of FGF21KO animals had reduced mitochondrial content and decreased relative mass, both normalized by EX. WAT and BAT inflammation was elevated in FGF21KO mice, reduced in both genotypes by EX. EX increased WAT Pgc1alpha gene expression, citrate synthase activity, COX I content and total AMPK content in WT but not FGF21KO mice. Collectively, these findings reveal a previously unappreciated anti-inflammatory role for FGF21 in WAT and BAT, but do not support that FGF21 is necessary for EX-mediated anti-inflammatory effects.

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Terese M Zidon, Jaume Padilla, Kevin L Fritsche, Rebecca J Welly, Leighton T McCabe, Olivia E Stricklin, Aaron Frank, Youngmin Park, Deborah J Clegg, Dennis B Lubahn, Jill A Kanaley, and Victoria J Vieira-Potter

Loss of ovarian hormones leads to increased adiposity and insulin resistance (IR), increasing the risk for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the molecular mechanism behind the adverse systemic and adipose tissue-specific metabolic effects of ovariectomy requires loss of signaling through estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) or estrogen receptor β (ERβ). We examined ovariectomized (OVX) and ovary-intactwild-type (WT), ERα-null (αKO), and ERβ-null (βKO) female mice (age ~49 weeks; n = 7–12/group). All mice were fed a phytoestrogen-free diet (<15 mg/kg) and either remained ovary-intact (INT) or were OVX and followed for 12 weeks. Body composition, energy expenditure, glucose tolerance, and adipose tissue gene and protein expression were analyzed. INT αKO were ~25% fatter with reduced energy expenditure compared to age-matched INT WT controls and βKO mice (all P < 0.001). Following OVX, αKO mice did not increase adiposity or experience a further increase in IR, unlike WT and βKO, suggesting that loss of signaling through ERα mediates OVX-induced metabolic dysfunction. In fact, OVX in αKO mice (i.e., signaling through ERβ in the absence of ERα) resulted in reduced adiposity, adipocyte size, and IR (P < 0.05 for all). βKO mice responded adversely to OVX in terms of increased adiposity and development of IR. Together, these findings challenge the paradigm that ERα mediates metabolic protection over ERβ in all settings. These findings lead us to suggest that, following ovarian hormone loss, ERβ may mediate protective metabolic benefits.