Vacuolar protein sorting 13C is a novel lipid droplet protein that inhibits lipolysis in brown adipocytes

Mol Metab. 2018 Jan;7:57-70. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2017.10.014. Epub 2017 Nov 12.


Objective: Brown adipose tissue (BAT) thermogenesis depends on the mobilization and oxidation of fatty acids from intracellular lipid droplets (LD) within brown adipocytes (BAs); however, the identity and function of LD proteins that control BAT lipolysis remain incomplete. Proteomic analysis of mouse BAT subcellular fractions identified vacuolar protein sorting 13C (VPS13C) as a novel LD protein. The aim of this work was to investigate the role of VPS13C on BA LDs.

Methods: Biochemical fractionation and high resolution confocal and immuno-transmission electron microscopy (TEM) were used to determine the subcellular distribution of VPS13C in mouse BAT, white adipose tissue, and BA cell culture. Lentivirus-delivered shRNA was used to determine the role of VPS13C in regulating lipolysis and gene expression in cultured BA cells.

Results: We found that VPS13C is highly expressed in mouse BAT where it is targeted to multilocular LDs in a subspherical subdomain. In inguinal white adipocytes, VPS13C was mainly observed on small LDs and β3-adrenergic stimulation increased VPS13C in this depot. Silencing of VPS13C in cultured BAs decreased LD size and triglyceride content, increased basal free fatty acid release, augmented the expression of thermogenic genes, and enhanced the lipolytic potency and efficacy of isoproterenol. Mechanistically, we found that BA lipolysis required activation of adipose tissue triglyceride lipase (ATGL) and that loss of VPS13C greatly increased the association of ATGL to LDs.

Conclusions: VPS13C is present on BA LDs where is targeted to a distinct subdomain. VPS13C limits the access of ATGL to LD and loss of VPS13C elevates lipolysis and promotes oxidative gene expression.

Keywords: ATGL; Brown adipose tissue; Free fatty acids; Oxidative genes; Perilipin 1; Thermogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes, Brown / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Lipid Droplets / metabolism*
  • Lipolysis*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • Vps13a protein, mouse