Inhibition of Mevalonate Pathway Prevents Adipocyte Browning in Mice and Men by Affecting Protein Prenylation

Cell Metab. 2019 Apr 2;29(4):901-916.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2018.11.017. Epub 2018 Dec 20.


Recent research focusing on brown adipose tissue (BAT) function emphasizes its importance in systemic metabolic homeostasis. We show here that genetic and pharmacological inhibition of the mevalonate pathway leads to reduced human and mouse brown adipocyte function in vitro and impaired adipose tissue browning in vivo. A retrospective analysis of a large patient cohort suggests an inverse correlation between statin use and active BAT in humans, while we show in a prospective clinical trial that fluvastatin reduces thermogenic gene expression in human BAT. We identify geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate as the key mevalonate pathway intermediate driving adipocyte browning in vitro and in vivo, whose effects are mediated by geranylgeranyltransferases (GGTases), enzymes catalyzing geranylgeranylation of small GTP-binding proteins, thereby regulating YAP1/TAZ signaling through F-actin modulation. Conversely, adipocyte-specific ablation of GGTase I leads to impaired adipocyte browning, reduced energy expenditure, and glucose intolerance under obesogenic conditions, highlighting the importance of this pathway in modulating brown adipocyte functionality and systemic metabolism.

Keywords: adipocyte browning; energy expenditure; mevalonate pathway; protein prenylation; small GTP-binding proteins; statins; uncoupled mitochondrial respiration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes, Brown / drug effects*
  • Adipocytes, Brown / metabolism
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mevalonic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Middle Aged
  • Protein Prenylation / drug effects*
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / metabolism
  • Young Adult


  • UCP1 protein, human
  • Ucp1 protein, mouse
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Mevalonic Acid