Aims/hypothesis: We investigated the role of the adipocyte-specific protein perilipin for lipolysis in humans.
Methods: Perilipin protein content and lipolysis rates were measured in human subcutaneous fat cells of non-obese (n=10) and obese (n=117) women. Single nucleotide polymorphisms in the perilipin gene were examined in obese subjects.
Results: Basal and noradrenaline-induced rates of lipolysis were two to fourfold increased (p<0.01) and perilipin protein content decreased 50% (p=0.005) in adipocytes of the obese women. In subjects matched for body mass index and fat-cell volume, a high rate of lipolysis was associated with a low adipocyte content of perilipin (p=0.01). Adipocyte content of perilipin was inversely correlated with the circulating concentrations of glycerol (r=0.62) and non-esterified fatty acids (n=0.49). A gene polymorphism (rs891460 A/G) in intron 6 was common. In AA subjects basal and noradrenaline induced lipolysis were 50 to 100% times more rapid (p</=0.01) and the adipocyte perilipin content was about 80% reduced (p=0.005) as compared to GG carriers. Intermediate values were found in AG carriers.
Conclusions/interpretation: Perilipin seems important for the regulation of lipolysis in human fat cells. Obesity and a polymorphism in the perilipin gene associate with decreased protein content of perilipin and increased basal (unstrained) and noradrenaline-induced lipolysis. Low perilipin content also associate with high in vivo lipolytic activity. Perilipin could be a factor behind impaired lipolysis in insulin-resistant conditions.