Purdue University Graduate School

Thesis_Final version_20231218_Jiamin Qiu





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posted on 2023-12-19, 15:22 authored by Jiamin QiuJiamin Qiu

Adipose tissue is characterized by the dominant presence of adipocytes, specialized cells adept at lipid metabolism. These adipocytes act as critical nodes, coordinating the complex processes of energy storage and mobilization according to the body's metabolic requirements. Within the adipocyte population of mammals, there are three main subtypes: white, beige, and brown adipocytes. White adipocytes are primarily dedicated to the sequestration of energy in the form of triglycerides. Conversely, beige and brown adipocytes are distinguished by their capacity for thermogenesis, the process of dissipating nutritional energy as heat. The contemporary challenge of chronic overnutrition has precipitated a global surge in obesity and cardiometabolic diseases. Addressing this issue necessitates the maintenance of white adipocyte homeostasis and the enhancement of the quantity and function of thermogenic adipocytes, which are imperative for mitigating the global obesity epidemics.

Mitochondrion, a multifunctional organelle, is integral to a broad spectrum of cellular processes, including anabolic and catabolic metabolism, bioenergetics, and signal transduction, all of which are essential for maintaining cellular functions and homeostasis. The efficacy of mitochondrial operations is intrinsically linked to their membrane dynamics. In this study, transmission electron microscopy and mass spectrometry were employed to investigate the proteins implicated in the cold-induced mitochondrial membrane remodeling in brown adipocytes. Through this approach, a poorly characterized protein, Family with Sequence Similarity 210 Member A (FAM210A), was identified as a mitochondrial inner membrane protein that is induced by cold stimulation. Subsequent loss-of-function experiments were conducted to elucidate the role of FAM210A in adipocytes. Mice with adipose-specific deletion of Fam210a (Fam210aAKO) exhibited compromised mitochondrial cristae structure and a reduced thermogenic capacity in brown adipose tissue (BAT), resulting in an increased susceptibility to lethal hypothermia during acute cold challenge. Moreover, in mice with inducible ablation of Fam210a in adipocytes (Fam210iAKO), mitochondrial alterations in BAT were negligible at thermoneutral conditions; however, they exhibited defective cold-induced mitochondrial cristae remodeling, culminating in a progressive loss of cristae and diminished mitochondrial density. Mechanistically, it was determined that FAM210A interacts with mitochondrial protease YME1L and modulates its activity toward OMA1 and OPA1 cleavage, thus compromising cold-induced mitochondrial remodeling in BAT.

Additionally, this research delved into the role of FAM210A in adipocytes in response to dietary stress by feeding mice with high-fat diet (HFD). The study found a consistent correlation between FAM210A expression and OPA1 cleavage in adipocytes under HFD challenge. Mice lacking FAM210A in all adipocytes and subjected to HFD exhibited lipoatrophy in white adipose tissue (WAT) and a downregulation of genes associated with adipogenesis and lipid metabolism. In contrast, mice with a brown adipocyte-specific ablation of Fam210a (Fam210aUKO) displayed no significant change in WAT mass but had enlarged livers. Crucially, both Fam210aAKO and Fam210aUKO mice presented increased WAT inflammation, deteriorated glucose tolerance, and exacerbated insulin resistance. These findings underscore the pivotal role of FAM210A in brown adipose tissue (BAT) in the preservation of WAT homeostasis and the regulation of systemic glucose clearance in diet-induced obesity.

In summary, these studies characterize the mitochondrial dynamics in brown adipocytes in response to cold stress, identify a new cold-induced mitochondrial protein, FAM210A, and uncover its functions in adipocytes under cold and dietary stresses. These findings highlight the importance of mitochondrial remodeling in the adaptive response of adipocytes to evolving metabolic demands. This work establishes FAM210A as a key regulator of mitochondrial cristae remodeling, shedding light on the mechanisms that govern mitochondrial plasticity in adipocytes.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Animal Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Shihuan Kuang

Additional Committee Member 2

Zhong-Yin Zhang

Additional Committee Member 3

Gregory C. Henderson

Additional Committee Member 4

Timothy P. Gavin