Isoform and tissue dependent impact of apolipoprotein E on adipose tissue metabolic activation: The role of apolipoprotein A1

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Biol Lipids. 2020 Feb;1865(2):158551. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2019.158551. Epub 2019 Oct 31.


Adipose organ is made of white (WAT) and brown (BAT) adipose tissue which are primarily responsible for lipid storage and energy production (heat and ATP) respectively. Metabolic activation of WAT may ascribe to this tissue characteristics of BAT, namely non-shivering thermogenesis and ATP production. Recent data indicate that apolipoproteins E (APOE) and A1 (APOA1) regulate WAT mitochondrial metabolic activation. Here, we investigated the functional cross-talk between natural human APOE2 and APOE4 isoforms with APOA1 in this process, using Apoe2knock-in and Apoe4knock-in mice. At baseline when Apoe2knock-in and Apoe4knock-in mice express both APOE and Apoa1, the Apoe2knock-in strain appears to have higher mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation levels and non-shivering thermogenesis in WAT compared to Apoe4knock-in mice. When mice were switched to a high-fat diet for 18 weeks, circulating levels of endogenous Apoa1 in Apoe2knock-in mice became barely detectable though significant levels of APOE2 were still present. This change was accompanied by a significant reduction in WAT mitochondrial Ucp1 expression while BAT Ucp1 was unaffected. Ectopic APOA1 expression in Apoe2knock-in animals potently stimulated WAT but not BAT mitochondrial Ucp1 expression providing further evidence that APOA1 potently stimulates WAT non-shivering thermogenesis in the presence of APOE2. Ectopic expression of APOA1 in Apoe4knock-in mice stimulated BAT but no WAT mitochondrial Ucp1 levels, suggesting that in the presence of APOE4, APOA1 is a trigger of BAT non-shivering thermogenesis. Overall, our data identified a tissue-specific role of the natural human APOE2 and APOE4 isoforms in WAT- and BAT-metabolic activation respectively, that appears dependent on circulating APOA1 levels.

Keywords: Apolipoprotein A1; Apolipoprotein E; Apolipoprotein E2; Apolipoprotein E4; Brown adipose tissue; Mitochondrial metabolic activity; Obesity; White adipose tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Apolipoprotein A-I / blood
  • Apolipoprotein A-I / genetics
  • Apolipoprotein A-I / metabolism*
  • Apolipoprotein E2 / genetics
  • Apolipoprotein E2 / metabolism*
  • Apolipoprotein E4 / genetics
  • Apolipoprotein E4 / metabolism*
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects
  • Gene Knock-In Techniques
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Models, Animal
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / blood
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Thermogenesis / physiology
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / metabolism
  • Weight Gain / physiology


  • Apolipoprotein A-I
  • Apolipoprotein E2
  • Apolipoprotein E4
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Ucp1 protein, mouse
  • Uncoupling Protein 1