Interorgan Signaling Between Adipose Tissue Metabolism and Skeletal Muscle Uncoupling Protein Homologs: Is There a Role for Circulating Free Fatty Acids?

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Uncoupling proteins 3 and 2 (UCP3 and UCP2) are two newly cloned genes that have been implicated in the regulation of lipids as fuel substrate in skeletal muscle on the basis that their mRNA expressions are upregulated during starvation (when fat stores are being rapidly mobilized) and downregulated during the early phase of refeeding (when fat stores are being rapidly replenished).To test the hypothesis that circulating free fatty acids (FFAs) may have a physiological role as an interorgan signal linking these dynamic changes in the fat stores to skeletal muscle expression of UCP3 and UCP2, the mRNA levels of these UCP homologs were examined in fed and fasted rats treated with the antilipolytic agent nicotinic acid. In 46-h fasted rats, we observed a threefold increase in serum FFA levels and increases in UCP3 and UCP2 mRNA levels that were more marked in the gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior muscles (predominantly fast-twitch fibers) than in the soleus muscle (predominantly slow-twitch fibers). Treatment with nicotinic acid blunted the fasting-induced increase in serum FFA levels and prevented the increase in mRNA levels of UCP3 and UCP2 in the soleus muscle, but had little or no effect on the elevated mRNA levels of these UCP homologs in the gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior muscles. Furthermore, treatment of ad libitum-fed animals with nicotinic acid resulted in a twofold reduction in serum FFA levels (i.e., by a magnitude similar to that observed during early refeeding) and significant reductions in UCP3 and UCP2 mRNA levels in the soleus muscle, but not in the gastrocnemius or tibialis anterior muscles. These results revealed a muscle-type dependency in the way UCP2 and UCP3 gene expression in skeletal muscle is regulated, and suggest that the hypothesis that circulating FFAs function as an interorgan signal between fat stores and skeletal muscle UCP3 and UCP2 gene expression is adequate only for slow-twitch (oxidative) muscles. Consequently, a signal(s) other than circulating FFAs must be implicated in the link between dynamic changes in body fat stores and UCP expression in predominantly fast-twitch (glycolytic/oxidative-glycolytic) muscles, which constitute the major fiber type of the total skeletal muscle mass and which have high susceptibility to developing insulin resistance and impairment in substrate utilization in metabolic diseases. Diabetes 47:1693-1698, 1998

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