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Caspase-2 has been shown to be involved in metabolic homeostasis. Here, we show that caspase-2 deficiency alters basal energy metabolism by shifting the balance in fuel choice from fatty acid to carbohydrate usage. At 4 weeks of age, whole-body carbohydrate utilisation was increased in Casp2-/- mice and was maintained into adulthood. By 17 weeks of age, Casp2-/- mice had reduced white adipose mass, smaller white adipocytes decreased fasting blood glucose and plasma triglycerides but maintained normal insulin levels. When placed on a 12-week high-fat diet (HFD), Casp2-/- mice resisted the development of obesity, fatty liver, hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance. In addition, HFD-fed Casp2-/- mice had reduced white adipocyte hypertrophy, apoptosis and expansion of both subcutaneous and visceral adipose depots. Increased expression of UCP1 and the maintenance of adiponectin levels in white adipose tissue of HFD-fed Casp2-/- mice indicated increased browning and adipocyte hyperplasia. We found that while the preference for whole-body carbohydrate utilisation was maintained, HFD-fed Casp2-/- mice were not impaired in their ability to switch to utilising fats as a fuel source. Our findings suggest that caspase-2 impacts basal energy metabolism by regulating adipocyte biology and fat expansion, most likely via a non-apoptotic function. Furthermore, we show that caspase-2 deficiency shifts the balance in fuel choice towards increased carbohydrate utilisation and propose that this is due to mild energy stress. As a consequence, Casp2-/- mice show an adaptive remodelling of adipose tissue that protects from HFD-induced obesity and improves glucose homeostasis while paradoxically increasing their susceptibility to oxidative stress induced damage and premature ageing.
Wilson, C. H., Nikolic, A., Kentish, S. J., Keller, M., Hatzinikolas, G., Dorstyn, L., … Kumar, S. (2017). Caspase-2 deficiency enhances whole-body carbohydrate utilisation and prevents high-fat diet-induced obesity. Cell Death & Disease, 8(10), e3136. https://doi.org/10.1038/cddis.2017.518