TRAIL (TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand) regulates adipocyte metabolism by caspase-mediated cleavage of PPARgamma

Cell Death Dis. 2013 Jan 24;4(1):e474. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2012.212.


Tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) and other members of the TNF family affect adipose tissue metabolism and contribute to the obesity-related inflammation of adipose tissue. Here, we sought to identify the effects of TRAIL (TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand) on fat cell biology. TRAIL-receptor 2 (TRAIL-R2) and its mouse homolog DR5 were regulated upon acute and chronic energy imbalance in murine and human adipose tissue. TRAIL inhibited insulin-stimulated glucose uptake and de novo lipogenesis in human adipocytes. Interestingly, TRAIL did not interfere with the phosphorylation of insulin-stimulated kinases such as Akt or Erk and did not activate the NF-κB pathway. Instead, TRAIL activated cleavage of caspase-8 and caspase-3. The subsequent cleavage of PPARγ led to its inactivation and resulted in reduced expression of lipogenic genes, such as Glut-4, FASN, and ACC. Taken together, we discovered a so far unknown function of the death ligand TRAIL in regulating adipocyte metabolism. Our results imply that TRAIL/TRAIL-R system might provide a new target for the prevention and treatment of obesity and its co-morbidities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / drug effects*
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism*
  • Caspase 8 / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Fatty Acid Synthases / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glucose Transporter Type 4 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Mice
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • PPAR gamma / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / genetics
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / genetics
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / metabolism
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / pharmacology*


  • Glucose Transporter Type 4
  • Insulin
  • NF-kappa B
  • PPAR gamma
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • Fatty Acid Synthases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 8
  • Glucose