Suppression of Endothelial AGO1 Promotes Adipose Tissue Browning and Improves Metabolic Dysfunction

Xiaofang Tang, Yifei Miao, Yingjun Luo, Kiran Sriram, Zhijie Qi, Feng Mao Lin, Yusu Gu, Chih Hung Lai, Chien Yi Hsu, Kirk L. Peterson, Kendall Van Keuren-Jensen, Patrick T. Fueger, Gene W. Yeo, Rama Natarajan, Sheng Zhong, Zhen Bouman Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes mellitus can cause dysfunction of endothelial cells (ECs) and vascular rarefaction in adipose tissues. However, the modulatory role of ECs in adipose tissue function is not fully understood. Other than vascular endothelial growth factor-vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-mediated angiogenic signaling, little is known about the EC-derived signals in adipose tissue regulation. We previously identified Argonaute 1 (AGO1; a key component of microRNA-induced silencing complex) as a crucial regulator in hypoxia-induced angiogenesis. In this study, we intend to determine the AGO1-mediated EC transcriptome, the functional importance of AGO1-regulated endothelial function in vivo, and the relevance to adipose tissue function and obesity. METHODS: We generated and subjected mice with EC-AGO1 deletion (EC-AGO1-knockout [KO]) and their wild-type littermates to a fast food-mimicking, high-fat high-sucrose diet and profiled the metabolic phenotypes. We used crosslinking immunoprecipitation- and RNA-sequencing to identify the AGO1-mediated mechanisms underlying the observed metabolic phenotype of EC-AGO1-KO. We further leveraged cell cultures and mouse models to validate the functional importance of the identified molecular pathway, for which the translational relevance was explored using human endothelium isolated from healthy donors and donors with obesity/type 2 diabetes mellitus. RESULTS: We identified an antiobesity phenotype of EC-AGO1-KO, evident by lower body weight and body fat, improved insulin sensitivity, and enhanced energy expenditure. At the organ level, we observed the most significant phenotype in the subcutaneous and brown adipose tissues of KO mice, with greater vascularity and enhanced browning and thermogenesis. Mechanistically, EC-AGO1 suppression results in inhibition of thrombospondin-1 (THBS1/TSP1), an antiangiogenic and proinflammatory cytokine that promotes insulin resistance. In EC-AGO1-KO mice, overexpression of TSP1 substantially attenuated the beneficial phenotype. In human endothelium isolated from donors with obesity or type 2 diabetes mellitus, AGO1 and THBS1 are expressed at higher levels than the healthy controls, supporting a pathological role of this pathway. CONCLUSIONS: Our study suggests a novel mechanism by which ECs, through the AGO1-TSP1 pathway, control vascularization and function of adipose tissues, insulin sensitivity, and whole-body metabolic state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-379
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 28 2020


  • adipose tissue
  • AGO1
  • angiogenesis
  • endothelial cells
  • insulin resistance
  • obesity
  • TSP1/THBS1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Suppression of Endothelial AGO1 Promotes Adipose Tissue Browning and Improves Metabolic Dysfunction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this