Inhibiting serotonin signaling through HTR2B in visceral adipose tissue improves obesity-related insulin resistance

J Clin Invest. 2021 Dec 1;131(23):e145331. doi: 10.1172/JCI145331.


Insulin resistance is a cornerstone of obesity-related complications such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. A high rate of lipolysis is known to be associated with insulin resistance, and inhibiting adipose tissue lipolysis improves obesity-related insulin resistance. Here, we demonstrate that inhibition of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) signaling through serotonin receptor 2B (HTR2B) in adipose tissues ameliorates insulin resistance by reducing lipolysis in visceral adipocytes. Chronic high-fat diet (HFD) feeding increased Htr2b expression in epididymal white adipose tissue, resulting in increased HTR2B signaling in visceral white adipose tissue. Moreover, HTR2B expression in white adipose tissue was increased in obese humans and positively correlated with metabolic parameters. We further found that adipocyte-specific Htr2b-knockout mice are resistant to HFD-induced insulin resistance, visceral adipose tissue inflammation, and hepatic steatosis. Enhanced 5-HT signaling through HTR2B directly activated lipolysis through phosphorylation of hormone-sensitive lipase in visceral adipocytes. Moreover, treatment with a selective HTR2B antagonist attenuated HFD-induced insulin resistance, visceral adipose tissue inflammation, and hepatic steatosis. Thus, adipose HTR2B signaling could be a potential therapeutic target for treatment of obesity-related insulin resistance.

Keywords: Cell Biology; Diabetes; Metabolism; Molecular biology; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology
  • Adipocytes, White
  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Epididymis
  • Female
  • Glycerol / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / metabolism*
  • Lipolysis
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2B / metabolism*
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Young Adult


  • Insulin
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2B
  • Serotonin
  • Glycerol