Brown adipose tissue (BAT) specific vaspin expression is increased after obesogenic diets and cold exposure and linked to acute changes in DNA-methylation

Mol Metab. 2017 Mar 28;6(6):482-493. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2017.03.004. eCollection 2017 Jun.


Objective: Several studies have demonstrated anti-diabetic and anti-obesogenic properties of visceral adipose tissue-derived serine protease inhibitor (vaspin) and so evoked its potential use for treatment of obesity-related diseases. The aim of the study was to unravel physiological regulators of vaspin expression and secretion with a particular focus on its role in brown adipose tissue (BAT) biology.

Methods: We analyzed the effects of obesogenic diets and cold exposure on vaspin expression in liver and white and brown adipose tissue (AT) and plasma levels. Vaspin expression was analyzed in isolated white and brown adipocytes during adipogenesis and in response to adrenergic stimuli. DNA-methylation within the vaspin promoter was analyzed to investigate acute epigenetic changes after cold-exposure in BAT.

Results: Our results demonstrate a strong induction of vaspin mRNA and protein expression specifically in BAT of both cold-exposed and high-fat (HF) or high-sugar (HS) fed mice. While obesogenic diets also upregulated hepatic vaspin mRNA levels, cold exposure tended to increase vaspin gene expression of inguinal white adipose tissue (iWAT) depots. Concomitantly, vaspin plasma levels were decreased upon obesogenic or thermogenic triggers. Vaspin expression was increased during adipogenesis but unaffected by sympathetic activation in brown adipocytes. Analysis of vaspin promoter methylation in AT revealed lowest methylation levels in BAT, which were acutely reduced after cold exposure.

Conclusions: Our data demonstrate a novel BAT-specific regulation of vaspin gene expression upon physiological stimuli in vivo with acute epigenetic changes that may contribute to cold-induced expression in BAT. We conclude that these findings indicate functional relevance and potentially beneficial effects of vaspin in BAT function.

Keywords: Brown adipose tissue; Browning; Cold exposure; DNA methylation; High-fat diet; High-sucrose diet; SerpinA12; Thermogenesis; UCP1; Vaspin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Adipokines / blood
  • Adipokines / genetics
  • Adipokines / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cold-Shock Response*
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Diet, High-Fat*
  • Female
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Serpins / blood
  • Serpins / genetics
  • Serpins / metabolism*


  • Adipokines
  • Serpins
  • vaspin protein, mouse