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USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine



Harry J. Mersmann, PhD

No longer at Baylor College of Medicine

Research Chemist, Agricultural Research Service

Regulation of Adipocyte Differentiation and Growth

My research concerns the bioregulation of the differentiation and growth of adipocytes. Precursor cells (preadipocytes) when confronted with the appropriate milieu of hormones and growth factors begin to differentiate. One of the early events in differentiation is an increase in the transcription and translation of specific transcription factors, particularly those of the CCAAT enhancer binding protein (C/EBP) and the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) families. Genes for a number of proteins that define the adipocyte phenotype have response elements for PPAR and C/EBP. In this manner, these transcription factors control the transcription and translation of these proteins and thus, the differentiation of adipocytes.

Previous efforts of this laboratory were to study the ß-adrenergic receptor (ßAR) modulation of adipocyte hypertrophy via regulation of adipocyte lipid metabolism. Major species differences were observed in the ßAR subtypes present in adipocytes and thus in the pharmacological regulation of adipocyte growth. Current efforts are to understand nutrient gene interaction in the regulation of adipocyte differentiation and growth. Of particular interest has been the role of individual long-chain fatty acids in the regulation of differentiation. Some fatty acids stimulate, some have little or no effect, and some inhibit differentiation of porcine preadipocytes in vitro. The mechanism for fatty acid stimulation of differentiation may reside in their acting as ligands for PPARg.

Representative publications:

McNeel, R.L. and H.J. Mersmann . 2003. Effects of isomers of conjugated linoleic acid on porcine adipocyte growth and differentiation. J. Nutr. Biochem. 14:266-274.

Ding, S-T., R.L. McNeel, and H.J. Mersmann . 2002. Modulation of adipocyte determination and differentiation-dependent factor 1 by selected polyunsaturated fatty acids. In Vitro Cell. Dev. Biol. - Animal. 38:352-357.

Mersmann, H.J. 2002. Mechanisms for conjugated linoleic acid-mediated reduction in fat deposition. J. Anim. Sci. 80(E. Suppl. 2):E126-E134.

Ding, S-T. and H.J. Mersmann. 2001. Fatty acids modulate porcine adipocyte differentiation and transcripts for transcription factors and adipocyte-characteristic proteins. J. Nutr. Biochem. 12:101-108.

McNeel, R.L., S-T. Ding, E.O = Brian Smith, and H.J. Mersmann. 2000. Expression of porcine adipocyte transcripts during differentiation in vitro and in vivo. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. (Part B) 126:291-302.

McNeel, R.L. and H.J. Mersmann. 2000. Nutritional deprivation reduces the transcripts for transcription factors and adipocyte-characteristic proteins in porcine adipocytes. J. Nutr. Biochem. 11:139-146.

McNeel, R.L. and H.J. Mersmann. 1999. Distribution and quantification of beta1-, beta2-, and beta3-adrenergic receptor subtype transcripts in porcine tissues. J. Anim. Sci. 77:611-621.

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