Adipose tissue is a major site of energy storage and has a role in the regulation of metabolism through the release of adipokines. Here researchers from the Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School, show that mice with an adipose-tissue-specific knockout of the microRNA (miRNA)-processing enzyme Dicer (ADicerKO), as well as humans with lipodystrophy, exhibit a substantial decrease in levels of circulating exosomal miRNAs. Transplantation of both white and brown adipose tissue-brown especially-into ADicerKO mice restores the level of numerous circulating miRNAs that are associated with an improvement in glucose tolerance and a reduction in hepatic Fgf21 mRNA and circulating FGF21. This gene regulation can be mimicked by the administration of normal, but not ADicerKO, serum exosomes. Expression of a human-specific miRNA in the brown adipose tissue of one mouse in vivo can also regulate its 3′ UTR reporter in the liver of another mouse through serum exosomal transfer. Thus, adipose tissue constitutes an important source of circulating exosomal miRNAs, which can regulate gene expression in distant tissues and thereby serve as a previously undescribed form of adipokine.
Model of mechanisms by which fat-derived circulating
exosomal miRNAs might regulate target mRNAs in other tissues.