Biochemical pharmacology

Translocator protein (18 kDa) as a pharmacological target in adipocytes to regulate glucose homeostasis.

PMID 26123521


As a major regulator in obesity and its associated metabolic complications, the proper functioning of adipocytes is crucial for health maintenance, thus serving as an important target for the development of anti-obese and anti-diabetic therapies. There is increasing evidence that mitochondrial malfunction is a pivotal event in disturbing adipocyte cell homeostasis. Among major mitochondrial structure components, the high-affinity drug- and cholesterol-binding outer mitochondrial membrane translocator protein (18 kDa; TSPO) has shown importance across a broad spectrum of mitochondrial functions. Recent studies demonstrated the presence of TSPO in white adipocyte mitochondria of mice, and administration of TSPO drug ligands to obese mice reduced weight gain and lowered glucose level. Therefore, it is of great interest to assess whether TSPO in adipocytes could serve as a drug target to regulate adipocyte activities with potential influence on weight control and glucose metabolism. Two structurally distinct TSPO drug ligands, PK 11195 and FGIN-1-27, improved the intracellular dynamics of 3T3-L1 adipocytes, such as the production and release of adipokines, glucose uptake, and adipogenesis. TSPO knockdown in either differentiated adipocytes or preadipocytes impaired these functions. Findings from 3T3-L1 cells were related to human primary cells, where TSPO expression was tightly associated with the metabolic state of primary adipocytes and the differentiation of primary preadipocytes. These results suggest that TSPO expression is essential to safeguard healthy adipocyte functions, and that TSPO activation in adipocytes improves their metabolic status in regulating glucose homeostasis. Adipocyte TSPO may serve as a pharmacologic target for the treatment of obesity and diabetes.