Characterization of the Wnt Inhibitors Secreted Frizzled-Related Proteins (SFRPs) in Human Adipose Tissue

Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism

Wnt signaling regulates adipogenesis and adipocyte function. Secreted frizzled-related proteins (SFRPs) are a family of secreted proteins (SFRP1-5) that bind and inhibit Wnts. Several members, including SFRP5, have recently been implicated in adipocyte dysfunction in obesity.

Our objective was to characterize the expression, secretion, and function of the SFRP family in human white adipose tissue (WAT) and fat cells.

SFRP1-5 mRNA expression was measured in human sc and visceral WAT from lean and obese individuals and correlated to insulin sensitivity. SFRP secretion from WAT explants was assessed by ELISA. Gene expression of SFRPs in cultured adipocytes during and after differentiation was determined. Functional analyses were done by gene silencing or incubations with recombinant SFRPs.

SFRP1-4, but not SFRP5, mRNA levels were altered in obesity. However, although SFRP1 was down-regulated and correlated positively with insulin sensitivity, SFRP2-4 were up-regulated, particularly in visceral WAT, and associated with insulin resistance. Only SFRP1, SFRP2, and SFRP4 were secreted from WAT, thereby constituting adipokines. Individual knockdowns of SFRP1, SFRP2, or SFRP4 during adipogenesis did not affect terminal differentiation. Incubations with SFRP1 reduced the secretion of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP1) and increased the release of adiponectin.

SFRP1, SFRP2, and SFRP4 are adipokines, the expression of which correlates with insulin sensitivity. For SFRP1, this may be related to effects on the secretion of IL-6, MCP1, and adiponectin. In contrast to recent murine findings implicating SFRP5 in metabolic dysfunction, this SFRP is neither regulated by obesity nor actively secreted from human WAT.