, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 1118-1125
Date: 28 May 2004

Expression of fatty-acid-handling proteins in human adipose tissue in relation to obesity and insulin resistance



Protein-mediated trans-membrane and intracellular fatty acid trafficking are becoming increasingly recognised as biochemically and physiologically important concepts. Obesity and insulin resistance are polygenic disorders, heavily influenced by environmental and life-style factors, and are virtually always associated with disturbed fatty acid metabolism in adipose and other tissues. The aim of this study was to investigate mRNA expression levels of fatty-acid-handling proteins in adipose tissue in relation to markers of genetic and acquired obesity and insulin resistance.


We quantified mRNA expression of subcutaneous adipose tissue fatty-acid-handling proteins (ALBP, KLBP, FATP1, FATP4, CD36, ACS1) in 17 monozygotic twin-pairs with a range of intra-pair differences (Δ) in BMI and detailed measures of obesity and insulin resistance, allowing influences of genetic and non-genetic factors to be distinguished.


In acquired obesity FATP4 expression was up-regulated independently of genetic background (ΔFATP4 versus ΔBMI; r=0.50, p=0.04; ΔFATP4 versus Δbody fat; r=0.59, p=0.01). Similarly, CD36 and FATP1 expression correlated with acquired differences in HDL cholesterol and non-esterified fatty acid concentrations respectively. Moreover, FATP4 and CD36 expression levels correlated with measures of obesity and insulin resistance that are influenced by both genetic and non-genetic factors (FATP4 versus BMI: r=0.53, p=0.0001; FATP4 versus body fat: r=0.51, p=0.002; FATP4 versus homeostasis model assessment [HOMA]: r=0.49, p=0.001; CD36 versus BMI: r=0.50, p=0.02; CD36 versus body fat: r=0.63, p=0.001; CD36 versus HOMA: r=0.34, p=0.06).


These findings indicate that expression of specific adipose tissue fatty-acid-handling proteins is related to obesity and insulin resistance, and that, in particular, FATP4 plays a role in acquired obesity. Our results suggest that facilitated fatty acid trafficking is a physiologically and pathologically relevant phenomenon in man.