Sphingosine kinases phosphorylate sphingosine to sphingosine 1‑phosphate (S1P), which functions as a signaling molecule. We have previously shown that sphingosine kinase 2 (Sphk2) is important for insulin secretion. To obtain a better understanding of the role of Sphk2 in glucose and lipid metabolism, we have characterized 20- and 52-week old Sphk2-/- mice using glucose and insulin tolerance tests and by analyzing metabolic gene expression in adipose tissue. A detailed metabolic characterization of these mice revealed that aging Sphk2-/- mice are protected from metabolic decline and obesity compared to WT mice. Specifically, we found that 52-week old male Sphk2-/- mice had decreased weight and fat mass, and increased glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity compared to control mice. Indirect calorimetry studies demonstrated an increased energy expenditure and food intake in 52-week old male Sphk2-/- versus control mice. Furthermore, expression of adiponectin gene in adipose tissue was increased and the plasma levels of adiponectin elevated in aged Sphk2-/- mice compared to WT. Analysis of lipid metabolic gene expression in adipose tissue showed increased expression of the Atgl gene, which was associated with increased Atgl protein levels. Atgl encodes for the adipocyte triglyceride lipase, which catalyzes the rate-limiting step of lipolysis. In summary, these data suggest that mice lacking the Sphk2 gene are protected from obesity and insulin resistance during aging. The beneficial metabolic effects observed in aged Sphk2-/- mice may be in part due to enhanced lipolysis by Atgl and increased levels of adiponectin, which has lipid- and glucose-lowering effects.
Keywords: Diabetes; Insulin resistance; Obesity; Sphingolipids; Sphingosine kinase; Sphk2.
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