Caspase-2 deficiency enhances whole-body carbohydrate utilisation and prevents high-fat diet-induced obesity

9:18 am 20 Dec 2017

Published online: 26 October 2017


We thank the staff at the SAHMRI Bioresources Facility (SAHMRI, Adelaide, Australia) for their assistance in maintaining the mouse colonies. Professor Jim Manavis (University of Adelaide, Australia) and Dr. John Finnie (SA Pathology, Adelaide, Australia) are acknowledged for their assistance with histopathology analyses. Vanessa Russell (CSIRO, Adelaide, Australia) is acknowledged for automated analysis of plasma samples. The authors acknowledge the facilities, and the scientific and technical assistance of the National Imaging Facility at SAHMRI. This work was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia project grants 1021456 and 1043057 to SK, a Cancer Council Collaborative Research Fellowship to LD, a NHMRC Early Career Research Fellowship to CHW (1073771) and SJK (1091586), and a NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellowship to SK (1103006).


Claire H Wilson, Andrej Nikolic, Stephen J Kentish, Marianne Keller, George Hatzinikolas, Loretta Dorstyn, Amanda J Page & Sharad Kumar


Caspase-2 has been shown to be involved in metabolic homeostasis. Here, we show that caspase-2 deficiency alters basal energy metabolism by shifting the balance in fuel choice from fatty acid to carbohydrate usage. At 4 weeks of age, whole-body carbohydrate utilisation was increased in Casp2−/− mice and was maintained into adulthood. By 17 weeks of age, Casp2−/− mice had reduced white adipose mass, smaller white adipocytes decreased fasting blood glucose and plasma triglycerides but maintained normal insulin levels. When placed on a 12-week high-fat diet (HFD), Casp2−/− mice resisted the development of obesity, fatty liver, hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance. In addition, HFD-fed Casp2−/− mice had reduced white adipocyte hypertrophy, apoptosis and expansion of both subcutaneous and visceral adipose depots. Increased expression of UCP1 and the maintenance of adiponectin levels in white adipose tissue of HFD-fed Casp2−/− mice indicated increased browning and adipocyte hyperplasia. We found that while the preference for whole-body carbohydrate utilisation was maintained, HFD-fed Casp2−/− mice were not impaired in their ability to switch to utilising fats as a fuel source. Our findings suggest that caspase-2 impacts basal energy metabolism by regulating adipocyte biology and fat expansion, most likely via a non-apoptotic function. Furthermore, we show that caspase-2 deficiency shifts the balance in fuel choice towards increased carbohydrate utilisation and propose that this is due to mild energy stress. As a consequence, Casp2−/− mice show an adaptive remodelling of adipose tissue that protects from HFD-induced obesity and improves glucose homeostasis while paradoxically increasing their susceptibility to oxidative stress induced damage and premature ageing.

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