• Thompson MM, Manning HC, Ellacott KL. Translocator protein 18 kDa (TSPO) is regulated in white and brown adipose tissue by obesity. PloS one. 8(11). e79980. PMID: 24260329 [PubMed]. PMCID: PMC3832377.


Translocator protein 18 kDa (TSPO) is an outer-mitochondrial membrane transporter which has many functions including participation in the mitochondrial permeability transition pore, regulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), production of cellular energy, and is the rate-limiting step in the uptake of cholesterol. TSPO expression is dysregulated during disease pathologies involving changes in tissue energy demands such as cancer, and is up-regulated in activated macrophages during the inflammatory response. Obesity is associated with decreased energy expenditure, mitochondrial dysfunction, and chronic low-grade inflammation which collectively contribute to the development of the Metabolic Syndrome. Therefore, we hypothesized that dysregulation of TSPO in adipose tissue may be a feature of disease pathology in obesity. Radioligand binding studies revealed a significant reduction in TSPO ligand binding sites in mitochondrial extracts from both white (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT) in mouse models of obesity (diet-induced and genetic) compared to control animals. We also confirmed a reduction in TSPO gene expression in whole tissue extracts from WAT and BAT. Immunohistochemistry in WAT confirmed TSPO expression in adipocytes but also revealed high-levels of TSPO expression in WAT macrophages in obese animals. No changes in TSPO expression were observed in WAT or BAT after a 17 hour fast or 4 hour cold exposure. Treatment of mice with the TSPO ligand PK11195 resulted in regulation of metabolic genes in WAT. Together, these results suggest a potential role for TSPO in mediating adipose tissue homeostasis.