Aquaporin-11 contributes to TGF-beta 1-induced endoplasmic reticulum stress in human visceral adipocytes: role in obesity-associated inflammation
Aquaporin-11 (AQP11) is expressed in human adipocytes, but its functional role remains unknown. Since AQP11 is an endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-resident protein that transports water, glycerol, and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), we hypothesized that this superaquaporin is involved in ER stress induced by lipotoxicity and inflammation in human obesity. AQP11 expression was assessed in 67 paired visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue samples obtained from patients with morbid obesity and normal-weight individuals. We found that obesity and obesity-associated type 2 diabetes increased (p < 0.05) AQP11 mRNA and protein in visceral adipose tissue, but not subcutaneous fat. Accordingly, AQP11 mRNA was upregulated (p < 0.05) during adipocyte differentiation and lipolysis, two biological processes altered in the obese state. Subcellular fractionation and confocal microscopy studies confirmed its presence in the ER plasma membrane of visceral adipocytes. Proinflammatory factors TNF-¿, and particularly TGF-ß1, downregulated (p < 0.05) AQP11 mRNA and protein expression and reinforced its subcellular distribution surrounding lipid droplets. Importantly, the AQP11 gene knockdown increased (p < 0.05) basal and TGF-ß1-induced expression of the ER markers ATF4 and CHOP. Together, the downregulation of AQP11 aggravates TGF-ß1-induced ER stress in visceral adipocytes. Owing to its "peroxiporin" properties, AQP11 overexpression in visceral fat might constitute a compensatory mechanism to alleviate ER stress in obesity.