Rapamycin Blocks Induction of the Thermogenic Program in White Adipose Tissue

Diabetes. 2016 Apr;65(4):927-41. doi: 10.2337/db15-0502. Epub 2016 Feb 8.


Rapamycin extends life span in mice, yet paradoxically causes lipid dysregulation and glucose intolerance through mechanisms that remain incompletely understood. Whole-body energy balance can be influenced by beige/brite adipocytes, which are inducible by cold and other stimuli via β-adrenergic signaling in white adipose depots. Induction of beige adipocytes is considered a promising strategy to combat obesity because of their ability to metabolize glucose and lipids, dissipating the resulting energy as heat through uncoupling protein 1. Here, we report that rapamycin blocks the ability of β-adrenergic signaling to induce beige adipocytes and expression of thermogenic genes in white adipose depots. Rapamycin enhanced transcriptional negative feedback on the β3-adrenergic receptor. However, thermogenic gene expression remained impaired even when the receptor was bypassed with a cell-permeable cAMP analog, revealing the existence of a second inhibitory mechanism. Accordingly, rapamycin-treated mice are cold intolerant, failing to maintain body temperature and weight when shifted to 4°C. Adipocyte-specific deletion of the mTORC1 subunit Raptor recapitulated the block in β-adrenergic signaling. Our findings demonstrate a positive role for mTORC1 in the recruitment of beige adipocytes and suggest that inhibition of β-adrenergic signaling by rapamycin may contribute to its physiological effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / drug effects
  • Adipocytes / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue, White / drug effects*
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Dioxoles / pharmacology
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Energy Metabolism / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Sirolimus / pharmacology*
  • Thermogenesis / drug effects*
  • Thermogenesis / genetics


  • Dioxoles
  • disodium (R,R)-5-(2-((2-(3-chlorophenyl)-2-hydroxyethyl)-amino)propyl)-1,3-benzodioxole-2,3-dicarboxylate
  • Sirolimus