Exercise training improves whole-body glucose homeostasis through effects largely attributed to adaptations in skeletal muscle; however, training also affects other tissues, including adipose tissue. To determine whether exercise-induced adaptations to adipose tissue contribute to training-induced improvements in glucose homeostasis, subcutaneous white adipose tissue (scWAT) from exercise-trained or sedentary donor mice was transplanted into the visceral cavity of sedentary recipients. Remarkably, 9 days post-transplantation, mice receiving scWAT from exercise-trained mice had improved glucose tolerance and enhanced insulin sensitivity compared with mice transplanted with scWAT from sedentary or sham-treated mice. Mice transplanted with scWAT from exercise-trained mice had increased insulin-stimulated glucose uptake in tibialis anterior and soleus muscles and brown adipose tissue, suggesting that the transplanted scWAT exerted endocrine effects. Furthermore, the deleterious effects of high-fat feeding on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity were completely reversed if high-fat-fed recipient mice were transplanted with scWAT from exercise-trained mice. In additional experiments, voluntary exercise training by wheel running for only 11 days resulted in profound changes in scWAT, including the increased expression of ∼1,550 genes involved in numerous cellular functions including metabolism. Exercise training causes adaptations to scWAT that elicit metabolic improvements in other tissues, demonstrating a previously unrecognized role for adipose tissue in the beneficial effects of exercise on systemic glucose homeostasis.
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