The ob gene, specifically expressed in fat cells, encodes leptin, a hormone that induces satiety and increases energy expenditure. In this study, we investigated the interactions between glucocorticoids and insulin on ob gene expression in cultured explants of rat adipose tissue. Only low levels of ob mRNA were detected when adipose tissue from fasted rats was cultured for 12–24 h in minimal essential medium. However, the addition of dexamethasone to the medium increased ob gene expression in a concentration-dependent manner (EC50 10 nM). With 1 μM dexamethasone, ob mRNA levels were similar to those in fresh fat pads from fed rats, reaching a maximum after 12 h. The effect of dexamethasone was blocked by actinomycin D, which indicates an action on transcription. This effect was increased when a minimum amount of fuel (glucose or a mixture of lactate and pyruvate) was supplied in the medium. Unlike dexamethasone, insulin, even when combined with high glucose concentrations, did not induce ob expression, although it strongly increased the accumulation of mRNA species for fatty acid synthase (FAS), the insulin-sensitive glucose transporter GLUT4 and the γ isoform of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPARγ). Unexpectedly, insulin dose-dependently inhibited dexamethasone-induced ob mRNA accumulation. This effect was observed at low concentrations of insulin (IC50 1 nM) and was delayed in onset, beginning after 6–9 h of culture. It was mimicked by insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) (100 nM). The inhibition by insulin was only detectable when fuels were present and/or when a critical level of ob expression was reached. As this inhibitory effect was reversed by cycloheximide, this suggests that it required ongoing protein synthesis. In conclusion, unlike dexamethasone, insulin had no direct stimulatory effect on ob gene expression. On the other hand, insulin (and IGF-1) even inhibited the dexamethasone-induced accumulation of ob mRNA. The underlying mechanism involved ongoing synthesis of an inhibitory protein by insulin, which is in keeping with its delayed effect. Moreover, the expression of genes for FAS, GLUT4 and PPARγ may be inversely related to that of ob.
- The Biochemical Society, London © 1997