Taurine is an amino acid with the ability to activate autophagy in adipocytes

Amino Acids. 2018 May;50(5):527-535. doi: 10.1007/s00726-018-2550-6. Epub 2018 Mar 9.


Alterations in adipocyte characteristics are highly implicated in the pathology of obesity. In a recent article, we demonstrated that high-fat diet-induced obesity impairs lysosomal function, thereby suppressing autophagy in mice white adipose tissue. Taurine, an amino acid naturally contained in the normal diet and existing ubiquitously in tissues, has been reported to improve insulin resistance and chronic inflammation in animal models, but underlying mechanisms remain unclear. From these findings, we hypothesized that improvement of obese pathology by taurine may be mediated through recovery of autophagy. In matured 3T3-L1 mouse adipocytes, treatment with taurine-promoted autophagy. Moreover, taurine-induced nuclear translocation of transcription factor EB (TFEB), a master regulator of autophagy- and lysosome-related factors. As this translocation is regulated by several kinase pathways, including extracellular signal-related kinase 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) and mechanistic target of rapamycin protein kinase complex 1 (MTORC1), we examined related signaling elements. Consequently, taurine-reduced phosphorylation levels of ERK1/2 but did not alter the phosphorylation of MTORC1 pathway-associated adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase or ribosomal protein S6 kinase. Taken together, these results suggest that taurine may enhance TFEB nuclear translocation through ERK1/2 to accelerate autophagy. The effect discovered in this study may represent a novel mechanism for the improvement of obesity-related pathology by taurine.

Keywords: Adipocyte; Autophagy; Obesity; TFEB; Taurine.

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology
  • Adipocytes / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Autophagy / drug effects*
  • Cell Line
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects*
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / metabolism
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3 / metabolism
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases / metabolism
  • Taurine / pharmacology*


  • Taurine
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases
  • Mapk1 protein, mouse
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3