Drug-Initiated Activity Metabolomics Identifies Myristoylglycine as a Potent Endogenous Metabolite for Human Brown Fat Differentiation

Metabolites. 2022 Aug 16;12(8):749. doi: 10.3390/metabo12080749.


Worldwide, obesity rates have doubled since the 1980s and in the USA alone, almost 40% of adults are obese, which is closely associated with a myriad of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and arteriosclerosis. Obesity is derived from an imbalance between energy intake and consumption, therefore balancing energy homeostasis is an attractive target for metabolic diseases. One therapeutic approach consists of increasing the number of brown-like adipocytes in the white adipose tissue (WAT). Whereas WAT stores excess energy, brown adipose tissue (BAT) can dissipate this energy overload in the form of heat, increasing energy expenditure and thus inhibiting metabolic diseases. To facilitate BAT production a high-throughput screening approach was developed on previously known drugs using human Simpson-Golabi-Behmel Syndrome (SGBS) preadipocytes. The screening allowed us to discover that zafirlukast, an FDA-approved small molecule drug commonly used to treat asthma, was able to differentiate adipocyte precursors and white-biased adipocytes into functional brown adipocytes. However, zafirlukast is toxic to human cells at higher dosages. Drug-Initiated Activity Metabolomics (DIAM) was used to investigate zafirlukast as a BAT inducer, and the endogenous metabolite myristoylglycine was then discovered to mimic the browning properties of zafirlukast without impacting cell viability. Myristoylglycine was found to be bio-synthesized upon zafirlukast treatment and was unique in inducing brown adipocyte differentiation, raising the possibility of using endogenous metabolites and bypassing the exogenous drugs to potentially alleviate disease, in this case, obesity and other related metabolic diseases.

Keywords: activity metabolomics; brown adipose tissue; metabolomics; myristoylglycine; obesity; white adipose tissue; zafirlukast.