Selective deletion of adipocytes, but not preadipocytes, by TNF-alpha through C/EBP- and PPARgamma-mediated suppression of NF-kappaB

Lab Invest. 2010 Sep;90(9):1385-95. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2010.118. Epub 2010 Jun 21.


Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is a key regulator of adipose tissue mass, but mechanisms underlying this effect have not been fully elucidated. We found that exposure to TNF-alpha caused a significant decrease in the number of adipocytes, but not preadipocytes. Subsequent experiments revealed that TNF-alpha selectively deleted adipocytes through induction of apoptosis. Following exposure to TNF-alpha, rapid activation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) was observed only in preadipocytes, but not in adipocytes. Inhibition of NF-kappaB rendered preadipocytes susceptible to TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis, suggesting that different activity of NF-kappaB is the determinant for the distinct apoptotic responses. During adipocyte differentiation, expression and activity of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPARgamma) were upregulated. Treatment of preadipocytes with a PPARgamma agonist attenuated NF-kappaB activation and rendered the cells vulnerable to TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis. Conversely, treatment of adipocytes with a PPARgamma antagonist enhanced NF-kappaB activation and conferred resistance to TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis, suggesting involvement of PPARgamma in the suppression of NF-kappaB in adipocytes. We also found that, following differentiation, expression and activity of CCAAT/enhancer binding protein (C/EBP), especially C/EBPalpha and C/EBPbeta, were upregulated in adipocytes. Overexpression of individual C/EBPs significantly inhibited activation of NF-kappaB in preadipocytes. Furthermore, transfection with siRNA for C/EBPalpha or C/EBPbeta enhanced activity of NF-kappaB in adipocytes, suggesting that C/EBP is also involved in the repression of NF-kappaB in adipocytes. These results suggested novel mechanisms by which TNF-alpha selectively deletes adipocytes in the adipose tissue. The C/EBP- and PPARgamma-mediated suppression of NF-kappaB may contribute to TNF-alpha-related loss of adipose tissue mass under certain pathological situations, such as cachexia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3-L1 Cells
  • Adipocytes* / cytology
  • Adipocytes* / drug effects
  • Adipocytes* / metabolism
  • Animals
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins / pharmacology
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Mice
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • NF-kappa B / pharmacology
  • PPAR gamma / genetics
  • PPAR gamma / metabolism*
  • PPAR gamma / pharmacology
  • Sequence Deletion / drug effects
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology*
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects


  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins
  • NF-kappa B
  • PPAR gamma
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha