Introduction: Zinc-alpha2-glycoprotein (ZAG) is a novel adipokine, which may act locally to influence adipocyte metabolism. This study assessed the effect of increased adiposity on ZAG expression in adipose tissue in human subjects. The study also examined the association between ZAG and adiponectin expression in human adipose tissue, and whether ZAG modulates adiponectin secretion by human adipocytes.
Methods: Adipose tissue (visceral and subcutaneous) was collected from human subjects with a wide range of BMIs. Human Simpson-Golabi-Behmel syndrome (SGBS) adipocytes were used for in vitro studies. ZAG mRNA levels were quantified by real-time PCR and protein by Western blotting.
Results: In human subjects, ZAG mRNA level was negatively correlated with BMI (r = -0.61, P < 0.001, n = 23, visceral; r = -0.6, P < 0.05, n = 14, subcutaneous) and fat mass (r = -0.62, P < 0.01, visceral; r = -0.6, P < 0.05, subcutaneous). Negative associations were also found between ZAG mRNA and insulin resistance parameters including plasma insulin (r = -0.65, P < 0.001, visceral; r = -0.55, P < 0.05, subcutaneous) and homeostasis model of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) (r = -0.65, P < 0.001, visceral; r = -0.52, P = 0.055, subcutaneous), and C reactive protein (CRP) (r = -0.46, P < 0.05, visceral; r = -0.53, P < 0.05, subcutaneous). However, ZAG mRNA was positively correlated with adiponectin (r = 0.5, P < 0.05, visceral; r = 0.82, P < 0.001, subcutaneous) but negatively associated with leptin mRNA (r = -0.42, P < 0.05, visceral; r = -0.54, P < 0.05, subcutaneous). ZAG secretion by differentiated human adipocytes was abundant. Addition of recombinant ZAG stimulated adiponectin release from human adipocytes.
Conclusion: ZAG gene expression in adipose tissue is downregulated with increased adiposity and circulating insulin. ZAG mRNA is positively correlated with adiponectin mRNA, and ZAG enhances adiponectin production by human adipocytes. We suggest that ZAG is linked to obesity and obesity-related insulin resistance.