The miR-182-5p/FGF21/acetylcholine axis mediates the crosstalk between adipocytes and macrophages to promote beige fat thermogenesis

JCI Insight. 2021 Sep 8;6(17):e150249. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.150249.


A dynamically regulated microenvironment, which is mediated by crosstalk between adipocytes and neighboring cells, is critical for adipose tissue homeostasis and function. However, information on key molecules and/or signaling pathways regulating the crosstalk remains limited. In this study, we identify adipocyte miRNA-182-5p (miR-182-5p) as a crucial antiobesity molecule that stimulated beige fat thermogenesis by promoting the crosstalk between adipocytes and macrophages. miR-182-5p was highly enriched in thermogenic adipocytes, and its expression was markedly stimulated by cold exposure in mice. In contrast, miR-182-5p expression was significantly reduced in adipose tissues of obese humans and mice. Knockout of miR-185-5p decreased cold-induced beige fat thermogenesis whereas overexpression of miR-185-5p increased beiging and thermogenesis in mice. Mechanistically, miR-182-5p promoted FGF21 expression and secretion in adipocytes by suppressing nuclear receptor subfamily 1 group D member 1 (Nr1d1) at 5'-UTR, which in turn stimulates acetylcholine synthesis and release in macrophages. Increased acetylcholine expression activated the nicotine acetylcholine receptor in adipocytes, which stimulated PKA signaling and consequent thermogenic gene expression. Our study reveals a key role of the miR-182-5p/FGF21/acetylcholine/acetylcholine receptor axis that mediates the crosstalk between adipocytes and macrophages to promote beige fat thermogenesis. Activation of the miR-182-5p-induced signaling pathway in adipose tissue may be an effective approach to ameliorate obesity and associated metabolic diseases.

Keywords: Adipose tissue; Cellular immune response; Endocrinology; Metabolism; Obesity.