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The Interaction of Obesity and Age and their effect on Adipose Tissue Metabolism in the Mouse



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Liu, Ke-di 


Numerous studies have investigated how bulk lipid metabolism is influenced in obesity and in particular how the composition of triglycerides found in the cytosol change with increased adipocyte expansion. However, in part reflecting the analytical challenge the composition of cell membranes, and in particular glycerophospholipids, an important membrane component, have been seldom investigated. Cell membrane components contribute to a variety of cellular processes including maintaining organelle functionality, providing an optimized environment for numerous proteins and providing important pools for metabolites, such as choline for one-carbon metabolism and S-adenosylmethionine for DNA methylation. Here, I have conducted a comprehensive lipidomic and transcriptomic study of white adipose tissue in mice that become obese either through genetic modification (ob/ob genotype), diet (high-fat diet) or a combination of the two across the life course. Specifically, I demonstrated that the changes in triglyceride metabolism that dominate the overall lipid composition of white adipose tissue were distinct from the compositional changes of glycerophospholipids. These latter lipids became more unsaturated to maintain the fluidity and normal function of the membrane in the initiation of obesity but then turned saturated after long-term administration of HFD and aging. This suggests that while triglycerides within the adipose tissue may be a relatively inert store of lipids, the compositional changes occur in cell membranes with more far-reaching functional consequences in both obesity and aging. The two-phase change of phospholipids can be correlated well with transcriptional and one-carbon metabolic changes within the adipocytes. The transcriptomic study demonstrated that the lipid metabolic pathways regulated by the peroxisome, AMPK, insulin and PPARγ signaling were activated in the initiation of obesity but inhibited in the adipose tissue of old ob/ob mice along with up-regulated inflammation pathways. The brown and white adipose tissue of PPARα-knock-out mice were also studied by lipidomic tools to get a deeper understanding of the effect of the peroxisome and PPAR system on adipose tissue and lipid metabolism during obesity. Most of the lipids were increased and became more saturated and shorter in adipose tissues of PPARα null mice, which is in good accordance with the results of the former animal study. In conclusion, my work using different rodent models and multi-omics techniques demonstrated a protective metabolic mechanism activated in the initiation but impaired at the end of the processes of obesity and aging, which could be an explanation of the similarity of obesity and aging in terms of high incidence of the metabolic syndrome and related diseases.





Griffin, Julian


lipid metabolism, obesity, glycerophospholipid, choline, one-carbon metabolism, S-adenosylmethionine, DNA methylation, lipidomics, transcriptomics, adipose tissue, triglyceride, aging, peroxisome, AMPK signaling, PPAR signaling, metabolic syndrome


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge