Discoidin domain receptor 1 (DDR1) is a collagen binding receptor tyrosine kinase implicated in atherosclerosis, fibrosis, and cancer. Our previous research showed that DDR1 could regulate smooth muscle cell trans-differentiation, fibrosis and calcification in the vascular system in cardiometabolic disease. This spectrum of activity led us to question whether DDR1 might also regulate adipose tissue fibrosis and remodeling.
We have used a diet-induced mouse model of cardiometabolic disease to determine whether DDR1 deletion impacts upon adipose tissue remodeling and metabolic dysfunction. Mice were fed a high fat diet (HFD) for 12 weeks, followed by assessment of glucose and insulin tolerance, respiration via indirect calorimetry, and brown fat activity by FDG-PET.
Feeding HFD induced DDR1 expression in white adipose tissue, which correlated with adipose tissue expansion and fibrosis. Ddr1−/− mice fed an HFD had improved glucose tolerance, reduced body fat, and increased brown fat activity and energy expenditure compared to Ddr1+/+ littermate controls. HFD-fed DDR1−/− mice also had reduced fibrosis, smaller adipocytes with multilocular lipid droplets, and increased UCP-1 expression characteristic of beige fat formation in subcutaneous adipose tissue. In vitro, studying C3H10T1/2 cells stimulated to differentiate, DDR1 inhibition caused a shift from white to beige adipocyte differentiation, whereas DDR1 expression was increased with TGFβ-mediated pro-fibrotic differentiation.
This study is the first to identify a role for DDR1 as a driver of adipose tissue fibrosis and suppressor of beneficial beige fat formation.