Aquaporin-7 (AQP7) is a water/glycerol transporting protein expressed in adipocyte plasma membranes. We report here remarkable age-dependent hypertrophy in adipocytes in AQP7-deficient mice. Wild type and AQP7 null mice had similar growth at 0-16 weeks as assessed by body weight; however, by 16 weeks AQP7 null mice had 3.7-fold increased body fat mass. Adipocytes from AQP7 null mice of age 16 weeks were greatly enlarged (diameter 118 μm) compared with wild type mice (30 μm). Adipocytes from AQP7 null mice also accumulated excess glycerol (251 versus 86 nmol/mg of protein) and triglycerides (3.4 versus 1.7 μmol/mg of protein). In contrast, at age 4 weeks, adipocyte volume and body fat mass were comparable in wild type and AQP7 null mice. To investigate the mechanism(s) responsible for the progressive adipocyte hypertrophy, glycerol permeability and fat metabolism were studied in adipocytes isolated from the younger mice. Plasma membrane glycerol permeability measured by [14C]glycerol uptake was 3-fold reduced in AQP7-deficient adipocytes. However, adipocyte lipolysis, measured by free fatty acid release and hormone-sensitive lipase activity, and lipogenesis, measured by [14C]glucose incorporation into triglycerides, were not affected by AQP7 deletion. These data suggest that adipocyte hypertrophy in AQP7 deficiency results from defective glycerol exit and consequent accumulation of glycerol and triglycerides. Increasing AQP7 expression/function in adipocytes may reduce adipocyte volume and fat mass in obesity.
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