Deficiency in AIM2 induces inflammation and adipogenesis in white adipose tissue leading to obesity and insulin resistance

Diabetologia. 2019 Dec;62(12):2325-2339. doi: 10.1007/s00125-019-04983-x. Epub 2019 Sep 11.


Aims/hypothesis: Absent in melanoma 2 (AIM2) is a cytosolic sensor for double-stranded DNA and a tumour suppressor. Binding of double-stranded DNA to AIM2 forms the AIM2 inflammasome, leading to activation of caspase-1 and production of IL-1β and IL-18. Although inflammasome-independent effects of AIM2 have been reported, its role in energy metabolism is unknown. We aimed to evaluate the effect of AIM2 in energy metabolism and glucose homeostasis.

Methods: Male and female whole body Aim2 knockout (Aim2-/-) mice were used in the current study. Body weight, food intake, body composition, energy expenditure, fasting blood glucose levels, GTT and body temperature were measured at indicated time points. RNA sequencing was carried out on gonadal white adipose tissue (gWAT) in 14-month-old female mice. mRNA and protein levels in tissues were analysed by quantitative real-time PCR and immunoblot. Immune cell infiltration in gWAT was examined by flow cytometry. Stromal vascular fractions isolated from gWAT were used to investigate adipocyte differentiation.

Results: Male and female Aim2-/- mice were obese compared with wild-type controls from 7 weeks of age until 51 weeks of age, with increased adiposity in both subcutaneous and visceral fat depots. While there were no differences in food intake, Aim2-/- mice demonstrated decreased energy expenditure and impaired brown adipose tissue function compared with wild-type controls. Fasting glucose and insulin levels were elevated, and Aim2-/- mice were glucose intolerant on intraperitoneal GTT. RNA sequencing revealed marked upregulation of the IFN-inducible gene Ifi202b, which encodes protein 202 (p202) and elevated inflammatory signalling in gWAT of Aim2-/- mice. Increased infiltration of total and Ly6Clow monocytes was noted at 8 weeks of age in gWAT, before the onset of obesity and insulin resistance. Ifi202b knockdown blocked adipogenesis in stromal vascular fractions and reduced inflammation in bone marrow-derived macrophages, demonstrating a key role of p202 in mediating the increased adipogenesis and inflammation in Aim2-/- mice.

Conclusions/interpretation: These results demonstrate a fundamental role for AIM2 in energy metabolism, inflammation and insulin resistance. Our studies establish a novel link between the innate immunity proteins, AIM2 and p202, and metabolism.

Keywords: AIM2; Adipogenesis; CX3CL1; Ifi202b; Inflammasome; Monocyte infiltration; p202.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipogenesis / genetics*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism*
  • Adiposity / genetics
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Temperature / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Eating / genetics
  • Energy Metabolism / genetics
  • Fasting / metabolism
  • Female
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / metabolism*


  • Aim2 protein, mouse
  • Blood Glucose
  • DNA-Binding Proteins