Obesity is becoming a global epidemic, predisposing to Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis and cancer. Therefore, understanding the biology of adipocyte expansion in response to overnutrition is critical to devising strategies to treat obesity, and the associated burden of morbidity and mortality. Through exploratory patch-clamp experiments in freshly isolated primary murine and human adipocytes, we recently determined that SWELL1/LRRC8a, a leucine-rich repeat containing transmembrane protein, functionally encoded an ion channel signalling complex (the volume-regulated anion channel, or VRAC) on the adipocyte plasma membrane. The SWELL1-/LRRC8 channel complex activates in response to increases in adipocyte volume and in the context of obesity. SWELL1 is also required for insulin-PI3K-AKT2 signalling to regulate adipocyte growth and systemic glycaemia. This commentary delves further into our working models for the molecular mechanisms of adipocyte SWELL1-mediated VRAC activation, proposed signal transduction mechanisms, and putative impact on adipocyte hypertrophy during caloric excess.
- ion channel