Background: The Apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene encodes for three isoforms in the human population (APOE2, APOE3 and APOE4). Whereas the role of APOE in lipid metabolism is well characterized, the specific metabolic signatures of the APOE isoforms during metabolic disorders, remain unclear.
Objective: To elucidate the molecular underpinnings of APOE-directed metabolic alterations, we tested the hypothesis that APOE4 drives a whole-body metabolic shift toward increased lipid oxidation.
Methods: We employed humanized mice in which the Apoe gene has been replaced by the human APOE*3 or APOE*4 allele to produce human APOE3 or APOE4 proteins and characterized several mechanisms of fatty-acid oxidation, lipid storage, substrate utilization and thermogenesis in those mice.
Results: We show that, whereas APOE4 mice gained less body weight and mass than their APOE3 counterparts on a Western-type diet (P<0.001), they displayed elevated insulin and homeostatic model assessment, markers of insulin resistance (P=0.004 and P=0.025, respectively). APOE4 mice also demonstrated a reduced respiratory quotient during the postprandial period (0.95±0.03 versus 1.06±0.03, P<0.001), indicating increased usage of lipids as opposed to carbohydrates as a fuel source. Finally, APOE4 mice showed increased body temperature (37.30±0.68 versus 36.9±0.58 °C, P=0.039), augmented cold tolerance and more metabolically active brown adipose tissue compared with APOE3 mice.
Conclusion: These data suggest that APOE4 mice may resist weight gain via an APOE4-directed global metabolic shift toward lipid oxidation and enhanced thermogenesis, and may represent a critical first step in the development of APOE-directed therapies for a large percentage of the population affected by disorders with established links to APOE and metabolism.