Gene expression of FTO in human subcutaneous adipose tissue, peripheral blood mononuclear cells and adipocyte cell line

J Nutrigenet Nutrigenomics. 2010;3(1):37-45. doi: 10.1159/000320732. Epub 2010 Sep 27.


Background/aims: The common polymorphism rs9939609 of the fat mass and obesity-associated gene (FTO) is strongly associated with obesity, but the biological function is still unknown. We compared the FTO gene expression in subcutaneous adipose tissue and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) between overweight and normal weight individuals. We also investigated if mRNA levels of FTO in adipose tissue correlated with the adiposity or inflammatory markers and mRNA levels of genes involved in the response to hypoxia (HIF-1a) and cell death(HMGB1).

Results: The mRNA expression of FTO in adipose tissue was greater in obese than normal weight individuals (p < 0.001), but there was no difference in FTO expression in PBMCs. FTO mRNA levels did not correlate with adiposity or inflammatory markers and FTO expression was not influenced by the FTO rs9939609 genotype. FTO mRNA level correlated positively with gene expression levels of HIF-1a and HMGB1 in subcutaneous adipose tissue (r = 0.59, p < 0.001; r = 0.69, p < 0.001, respectively; adjusted for BMI and adipocyte cell size).

Conclusions: Altogether, FTO expression appeared not to have a well-defined impact on clinical or biochemical parameters comprising the metabolic syndrome. The correlations with the genes related to hypoxia and cell death suggest novel biological activities for FTO.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / physiology*
  • Alpha-Ketoglutarate-Dependent Dioxygenase FTO
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Mass Index
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / isolation & purification
  • Reference Values
  • Subcutaneous Fat / physiology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Interleukin-6
  • Proteins
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • RNA
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Alpha-Ketoglutarate-Dependent Dioxygenase FTO
  • FTO protein, human