What is Lipolysis?


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During fatty acid oxidation, triglycerides can be broken down into acetyl CoA molecules and used for energy when glucose levels are low.

Source: OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology

OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology

To obtain energy from fat, triglycerides must first be broken down by hydrolysis into their two principal components, fatty acids and glycerol. This process, called lipolysis, takes place in the cytoplasm. The resulting fatty acids are oxidized by βoxidation into acetyl CoA, which is used by the Krebs cycle. The glycerol that is released from triglycerides after lipolysis directly enters the glycolysis pathway as DHAP. Because one triglyceride molecule yields three fatty acid molecules with as much as 16 or more carbons in each one, fat molecules yield more energy than carbohydrates and are an important source of energy for the human body. Triglycerides yield more than twice the energy per unit mass when compared to carbohydrates and proteins. Therefore, when glucose levels are low, triglycerides can be converted into acetyl CoA molecules and used to generate ATP through aerobic respiration.

The breakdown of fatty acids, called fatty acid oxidation or beta (β)-oxidation, begins in the cytoplasm, where fatty acids are converted into fatty acyl CoA molecules. This fatty acyl CoA combines with carnitine to create a fatty acyl carnitine molecule, which helps to transport the fatty acid across the mitochondrial membrane. Once inside the mitochondrial matrix, the fatty acyl carnitine molecule is converted back into fatty acyl CoA and then into acetyl CoA. The newly formed acetyl CoA enters the Krebs cycle and is used to produce ATP in the same way as acetyl CoA derived from pyruvate.


Betts, J. G., Young, K. A., Wise, J. A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D. H., … DeSaix, P. (n.d.). Anatomy and Physiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/anatomy-and-physiology

Trichostatin A Modulates Thiazolidinedione-Mediated Suppression of Tumor Necrosis Factor α-Induced Lipolysis in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes

In obesity, high levels of tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) stimulate lipolysis in adipocytes, leading to hyperlipidemia and insulin resistance. Thiazolidinediones (TZDs), the insulin-sensitizing drugs, antagonize TNFα-induced lipolysis in adipocytes, thereby increasing insulin sensitivity in diabetes patients. The cellular target of TZDs is peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ), a nuclear receptor that controls many adipocyte functions. As a transcription factor, PPARγ is closely modulated by coregulators, which include coactivators and corepressors. Previous studies have revealed that in macrophages, the insulin-sensitizing effect of PPARγ may involve suppression of proinflammatory gene expression by recruiting the corepressor complex that contains corepressors and histone deacetylases (HDACs). Therefore, we investigated whether the corepressor complex is involved in TZD-mediated suppression of TNFα-induced lipolysis in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Trichostatin A (TSA), a pan HDAC inhibitor (HDACI) that inhibits class I and II HDACs, was used to examine the involvement of HDACs in the actions of TZDs. TSA alone increased basal lipolysis and attenuated TZD-mediated suppression of TNFα-induced lipolysis. Increased basal lipolysis may in part result from class I HDAC inhibition because selective class I HDACI treatment had similar results. However, attenuation of TZD-mediated TNFα antagonism may be specific to TSA and related hydroxamate-based HDACI rather than to HDAC inhibition. Consistently, corepressor depletion did not affect TZD-mediated suppression. Interestingly, TSA treatment greatly reduced PPARγ levels in differentiated adipocytes. Finally, extracellular signal-related kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) mediated TNFα-induced lipolysis, and TZDs suppressed TNFα-induced ERK phosphorylation. We determined that TSA increased basal ERK phosphorylation, and attenuated TZD-mediated suppression of TNFα-induced ERK phosphorylation, consistent with TSA’s effects on lipolysis. These studies suggest that TSA, through down-regulating PPARγ, attenuates TZD-mediated suppression of TNFα-induced ERK phosphorylation and lipolysis in adipocytes. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0071517

Bacterial Peptidoglycan Stimulates Adipocyte Lipolysis via NOD1

Obesity is associated with inflammation that can drive metabolic defects such as hyperlipidemia and insulin resistance. Specific metabolites can contribute to inflammation, but nutrient intake and obesity are also associated with altered bacterial load in metabolic tissues (i.e. metabolic endotoxemia). These bacterial cues can contribute to obesity-induced inflammation. The specific bacterial components and host receptors that underpin altered metabolic responses are emerging. We previously showed that Nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-containing protein 1 (NOD1) activation with bacterial peptidoglycan (PGN) caused insulin resistance in mice. We now show that PGN induces cell-autonomous lipolysis in adipocytes via NOD1. Specific bacterial PGN motifs stimulated lipolysis in white adipose tissue (WAT) explants from WT, but not NOD1−/− mice. NOD1-activating PGN stimulated mitogen activated protein kinases (MAPK),protein kinase A (PKA), and NF-κB in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. The NOD1-mediated lipolysis response was partially reduced by inhibition of ERK1/2 or PKA alone, but not c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). NOD1-stimulated lipolysis was partially dependent on NF-κB and was completely suppressed by inhibiting ERK1/2 and PKA simultaneously or hormone sensitive lipase (HSL). Our results demonstrate that bacterial PGN stimulates lipolysis in adipocytes by engaging a stress kinase, PKA, NF-κB-dependent lipolytic program. Bacterial NOD1 activation is positioned as a component of metabolic endotoxemia that can contribute to hyperlipidemia, systemic inflammation and insulin resistance by acting directly on adipocytes. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0097675

Effects of Genetic Loci Associated with Central Obesity on Adipocyte Lipolysis

Numerous genetic loci have been associated with measures of central fat accumulation, such as waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for body mass index (WHRadjBMI). However the mechanisms by which genetic variations influence obesity remain largely elusive. Lipolysis is a key process for regulation of lipid storage in adipocytes, thus is implicated in obesity and its metabolic complications. Here, genetic variants at 36 WHRadjBMI-associated loci were examined for their influence on abdominal subcutaneous adipocyte lipolysis.

Subjects and Methods:
Fasting subcutaneous adipose tissue biopsies were collected from 789 volunteers (587 women and 202 men, body mass index (BMI) range 17.7–62.3 kg/m2). We quantified subcutaneous adipocyte lipolysis, both spontaneous and stimulated by the catecholamine isoprenaline or a cyclic AMP analogue. DNA was extracted from peripheral blood mononuclear cells and genotyping of SNPs associated with WHRadjBMI conducted. The effects on adipocyte lipolysis measures were assessed for SNPs individually and combined in a SNP score.

The WHRadjBMI-associated loci CMIP, PLXND1, VEGFA and ZNRF3-KREMEN1 demonstrated nominal associations with spontaneous and/or stimulated lipolysis. Candidate genes in these loci have been reported to influence NFκB-signaling, fat cell size and Wnt signalling, all of which may influence lipolysis.

This report provides evidence for specific WHRadjBMI-associated loci as candidates to modulate adipocyte lipolysis. Additionally, our data suggests that genetically increased central fat accumulation is unlikely to be a major cause of altered lipolysis in abdominal adipocytes.


Phosphatidylcholine causes adipocyte-specific lipolysis and apoptosis in adipose and muscle tissues

Phosphatidylcholine (PPC) formula has been therapeutically used to reduce areas of localized fat. However, no single research has been carried out on its effect on a variety of cells in adipose and muscle tissues. Herein, the current study aimed to explore the activity of PPC on different cells in adipose and muscle tissues and to investigate the molecular mechanisms contributing to the effects of PPC on lipolysis and apoptosis. mRNA expression levels of various genes were measured by quantitative real-time PCR. Protein expression levels were observed through Western blotting and cell viability was measured by MTT assay. Lipolysis and caspase 3 activity assay were performed using commercial kits. PPC induces lipolysis and apoptosis in adipocytes (3T3-L1), but not in the other tested cells, including skeletal muscle cells (C2C12 myocytes), endothelial cells (HUVEC), and fibroblasts (BJ). The possible role of TNFα and IL-1β-mediated pathways on the effects of PPC was also revealed. We confirmed that treatment with PPC caused lipolysis and apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner (only in 3T3-L1 adipocytes). The effect of PPC observed in 3T3-L1 adipocytes was not evident in C2C12 myocytes, HUVEC, and fibroblasts. PPC also increased TNFα and IL-1β expression and release in 3T3-L1 adipocytes in a dose-dependent fashion, but not in C2C12 myocytes, HUVEC, and BJ. Suppression of TNFα or IL-1β reversed PPC-induced lipolysis and apoptosis in 3T3-L1 adipocytes, suggesting that PPC could promote adipocyte-specific lipolysis and apoptosis through TNFα and IL-1β-mediated signaling. We conclude that the specific activity of PPC on adipocyte in adipose without other tissue damages can be an effective approach for melting lipid. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0214760

Periparturient lipolysis and oxylipid biosynthesis in bovine adipose tissues

The periparturient period of dairy cows is characterized by intense lipolysis in adipose tissues (AT), which induces the release of free fatty acids (FFA) into circulation. Among FFA, polyunsaturated fatty acids are susceptible to oxidation and can modulate inflammatory responses during lipolysis within AT. Linoleic and arachidonic acid oxidized products (oxylipids) such as hydroxy-octadecadienoic acids (HODE) and hydroxy-eicosatetraenoic acids (HETE), were recently identified as products of lipolysis that could modulate AT inflammation during lipolysis. However, the effect of lipolysis intensity during the transition from gestation to lactation on fatty acid substrate availability and subsequent AT oxylipid biosynthesis is currently unknown. We hypothesized that in periparturient dairy cows, alterations in AT and plasma fatty acids and oxylipid profiles coincide with changes in lipolysis intensity and stage of lactation. Blood and subcutaneous AT samples were collected from periparturient cows at -27±7 (G1) and -10±5 (G2) d prepartum and at 8±3 d postpartum (PP). Targeted lipidomic analysis was performed on plasma and AT using HPLC-MS/MS. We report that FFA concentrations increased as parturition approached and were highest at PP. Cows exhibiting high lipolysis rate at PP (FFA>1.0 mEq/L) had higher body condition scores at G1 compared to cows with low lipolysis rate (FFA<1.0 mEq/L). Concentrations of plasma linoleic and arachidonic acids were increased at PP. In AT, 13-HODE, and 5-, 11- and 15-HETE were increased at PP compared to G1 and G2. Concentrations of beta hydroxybutyrate were positively correlated with those of 13-HODE and 15-HETE in AT. Plasma concentrations of 5- and 20-HETE were increased at PP. These data demonstrate that prepartum adiposity predisposes cows to intense lipolysis post-partum and may exacerbate AT inflammation because of increased production of pro-inflammatory oxylipids including 5- and 15-HETE and 13-HODE. These results support a role for certain linoleic and arachidonic acid-derived oxylipids as positive and negative modulators of AT inflammation during periparturient lipolysis. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188621

Lipolysis – A highly regulated multi-enzyme complex mediates the catabolism of cellular fat stores

Lipolysis is the biochemical pathway responsible for the catabolism of triacylglycerol (TAG) stored in cellular lipid droplets. The hydrolytic cleavage of TAG generates non-esterified fatty acids, which are subsequently used as energy substrates, essential precursors for lipid and membrane synthesis, or mediators in cell signaling processes. Consistent with its central importance in lipid and energy homeostasis, lipolysis occurs in essentially all tissues and cell types, it is most abundant, however, in white and brown adipose tissue. Over the last 5 years, important enzymes and regulatory protein factors involved in lipolysis have been identified. These include an essential TAG hydrolase named adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL) [annotated as patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing protein A2], the ATGL activator comparative gene identification-58 [annotated as α/β hydrolase containing protein 5], and the ATGL inhibitor G0/G1 switch gene 2. Together with the established hormone-sensitive lipase [annotated as lipase E] and monoglyceride lipase, these proteins constitute the basic “lipolytic machinery”. Additionally, a large number of hormonal signaling pathways and lipid droplet-associated protein factors regulate substrate access and the activity of the “lipolysome”. This review summarizes the current knowledge concerning the enzymes and regulatory processes governing lipolysis of fat stores in adipose and non-adipose tissues. Special emphasis will be given to ATGL, its regulation, and physiological function. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.plipres.2010.10.004


When glucose levels are plentiful, the excess acetyl CoA generated by glycolysis can be converted into fatty acids, triglycerides, cholesterol, steroids, and bile salts. This process, called lipogenesis, creates lipids (fat) from the acetyl CoA and takes place in the cytoplasm of adipocytes (fat cells) and hepatocytes (liver cells). When you eat more glucose or carbohydrates than your body needs, your system uses acetyl CoA to turn the excess into fat. Although there are several metabolic sources of acetyl CoA, it is most commonly derived from glycolysis. Acetyl CoA availability is significant, because it initiates lipogenesis. Lipogenesis begins with acetyl CoA and advances by the subsequent addition of two carbon atoms from another acetyl CoA; this process is repeated until fatty acids are the appropriate length. Because this is a bond-creating anabolic process, ATP is consumed. However, the creation of triglycerides and lipids is an efficient way of storing the energy available in carbohydrates. Triglycerides and lipids, high-energy molecules, are stored in adipose tissue until they are needed.

Although lipogenesis occurs in the cytoplasm, the necessary acetyl CoA is created in the mitochondria and cannot be transported across the mitochondrial membrane. To solve this problem, pyruvate is converted into both oxaloacetate and acetyl CoA. Two different enzymes are required for these conversions. Oxaloacetate forms via the action of pyruvate carboxylase, whereas the action of pyruvate dehydrogenase creates acetyl CoA. Oxaloacetate and acetyl CoA combine to form citrate, which can cross the mitochondrial membrane and enter the cytoplasm. In the cytoplasm, citrate is converted back into oxaloacetate and acetyl CoA. Oxaloacetate is converted into malate and then into pyruvate. Pyruvate crosses back across the mitochondrial membrane to wait for the next cycle of lipogenesis. The acetyl CoA is converted into malonyl CoA that is used to synthesize fatty acids. Figure 6 summarizes the pathways of lipid metabolism. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-ap2/chapter/lipid-metabolism/

Laser Lipolysis

Laser lipolysis is a type of cosmetic surgery. It uses laser energy to change the shape and appearance of your body. There are other kinds of lipolysis that involve injections or radio wave treatments, but laser lipolysis is the most common technique.

Lipolysis targets smaller deposits of fat on specific parts of the body. You may be a good candidate if you have fatty tissue on your abdomen, hips, thighs, or buttocks that you wish to get rid of. This procedure typically isn’t recommended for people who are obese.

If you’re interested in lipolysis, you’ll need to have a consultation with a licensed plastic surgeon about your goals. They can talk you through your individual benefits and any possible risks. https://www.healthline.com/health/lipolysis

Regulation of Lipolysis

Lipolysis can be regulated through cAMP’s binding and activation of protein kinase A (PKA). PKA can phosphorylate lipases, perilipin 1A, and CGI-58 to increase the rate of lipolysis. Catecholamines bind to 7TM receptors (G protein-coupled receptors) on the adipocyte cell membrane, which activate adenylate cyclase. This results in increased production of cAMP, which activates PKA and leads to an increased rate of lipolysis. Despite glucagon’s lipolytic activity (which stimulates PKA as well) in vitro, the role of glucagon in lipolysis in vivo is disputed. https://doi.org/10.1210/jcem.86.5.7460

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