Promoting brown adipose tissue (BAT) development is an attractive strategy for the treatment of obesity, as activated BAT dissipates energy through thermogenesis; however, the mechanisms controlling BAT formation are not fully understood. We hypothesized that as a master regulator of energy metabolism, AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) may play a direct role in the process and found that AMPKα1 (PRKAA1) ablation reduced Prdm16 expression and impaired BAT development. During early brown adipogenesis, the cellular levels of α-ketoglutarate (αKG), a key metabolite required for TET-mediated DNA demethylation, were profoundly increased and required for active DNA demethylation of the Prdm16 promoter. AMPKα1 ablation reduced isocitrate dehydrogenase 2 activity and cellular αKG levels. Remarkably, postnatal AMPK activation with AICAR or metformin rescued obesity-induced suppression of brown adipogenesis and thermogenesis. In summary, AMPK is essential for the epigenetic control of BAT development through αKG, thus linking a metabolite to progenitor cell differentiation and thermogenesis.
Keywords: DNA demethylation; Prkaa1; brown adipogenesis.
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