Theses Doctoral

Role of Lysosomes in Nonshivering Thermogenesis

Lin, Yuxi

Obesity occurs when nutrient intake exceeds energy expenditure over prolonged periods. In the modern world, obesity has reached epidemic proportions. Complications of obesity, including cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, certain forms of cancer, and metabolic dysfunction contribute substantially to morbidity and death today. With 13% of the world’s population affected, the rising rates of obesity will grow as a public health burden. Until recently, pharmacologic attempts to treat obesity have focused on reducing food intake. However, motivated in part by recent studies in mice and by analyses of fat in humans, approaches to increasing energy expenditure, specifically thermogenic energy expenditure, may provide a new therapeutic avenue.
Most simplistically, there are two classes of adipocytes: storage and thermogenic. Storage fat, typically composed of unilocular white adipocytes function as storage depots for excess calories. On the other hand, thermogenic fat containing brown or beige adipocytes, generate heat through uncoupled mitochondrial respiration, This regulated generation of heat, known as thermogenesis, is used by organisms to maintain or increase body temperature. Historically, thermogenesis has been divided into shivering and nonshivering thermogenesis. Repeated, rapid contraction of skeletal muscles generate heat and is the basis for shivering thermogenesis. Nonshivering thermogenesis (NST) describes all the other mechanisms by which an organism can generate regulated heat. Only two organelles are known to contribute to NST: the mitochondrion of brown and beige adipocytes and the sarcoplasmic reticulum of muscle. The role of other organelles has not been systematically studied.
Here we show in mice that thermogenic stimuli, including a cold challenge and pyrogenic molecules, activate a lysosomal program in a known thermogenic tissue (BAT) as well as several “non-thermogenic” organs, including the spleen, liver and skeletal muscle. A similar program is activated by a cold challenge in the metazoan, Drosophila melanogaster, suggesting an evolutionarily ancient origin for this response. We show by both pharmacologic and genetic means that impairment of lysosomal function compromises the thermogenic response of individual cells ex vivo and of mice in vivo. Data from genetic manipulations find that impairment of lysosome function that leads to cold intolerance and death can modestly downregulate the classical Ucp1 thermogenic program. However, pharmacological inhibition reveals that impairment of lysosome function can compromise thermogenesis without altering the Ucp1 program.
As part of our efforts to study lysosome function in thermogenesis we developed a new method of measuring thermogenesis in primary cells. Using isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), we quantitatively measured the heat generated by cells isolated from mice. This permitted us to assess the effects of both genetic and pharmacologic manipulations on the generation of heat and allowed us, for the first time, to measure the heat (uCal/sec/cell) of BAT in the basal and stimulated state. With ITC, we demonstrated that the impairment of lysosome function had direct effects on the generation of cellular heat, independent of systemic modulators of temperature such as basal metabolic rate or circulatory dissipation.
From these studies, we conclude that lysosomes are thermogenic organelles induced by cold and pyrogenic stimuli and contribute both directly and indirectly to thermogenesis. Our work also suggests that lysosome thermogenesis may provide a means of thermoregulation in non-homeotherms as well as in tissues previously not implicated in temperature regulation in mammals.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Nutritional and Metabolic Biology
Thesis Advisors
Ferrante, Anthony W.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 7, 2016