Adipose tissue is a very dynamic metabolic organ that plays an essential role in regulating whole-body glucose homeostasis. Dysfunctional adipose tissue hypertrophy with obesity is associated with fibrosis and type 2 diabetes. Yes-associated protein 1 (YAP) is a transcription cofactor important in the Hippo signaling pathway. However, the role of YAP in adipose tissue and glucose homeostasis is unknown.
To study the role of YAP with metabolic stress, we assessed how increased weight and insulin resistance impact YAP in humans and mouse models. To further investigate the in vivo role of YAP specifically in adipose tissue and glucose homeostasis, we developed adipose tissue-specific YAP knockout mice and placed them on either chow or high fat diet (HFD) for 12–14 weeks. To further study the direct role of YAP in adipocytes we used 3T3-L1 cells.
We found that YAP protein levels increase in adipose tissue from humans with type 2 diabetes and mouse models of diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance. This suggests that YAP signaling may contribute to adipocyte dysfunction and insulin resistance under metabolic stress conditions. On an HFD, adipose tissue YAP knockout mice had improved glucose tolerance compared to littermate controls. Perigonadal fat pad weight was also decreased in knockout animals, with smaller adipocyte size. Adipose tissue fibrosis and gene expression associated with fibrosis was decreased in vivo and in vitro in 3T3-L1 cells treated with a YAP inhibitor or siRNA.
We show that YAP is increased in adipose tissue with weight gain and insulin resistance. Disruption of YAP in adipocytes prevents glucose intolerance and adipose tissue fibrosis, suggesting that YAP plays an important role in regulating adipose tissue and glucose homeostasis with metabolic stress.