HIV-1 Viral Protein R Couples Metabolic Inflexibility With White Adipose Tissue Thermogenesis

Neeti Agarwal, Dinakar Iyer, Pradip Saha, Aaron R. Cox, Yan Xia, Netanya S. Utay, Anoma Somasundaram, Ulrich Schubert, Jordan E. Lake, Sean M. Hartig, Ashok Balasubramanyam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Persons living with HIV (PLWH) manifest chronic disorders of brown and white adipose tissues that lead to diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The mechanisms that link viral factors to defective adipose tissue function and abnormal energy balance in PLWH remain incompletely understood. Here, we explored how the HIV accessory protein viral protein R (Vpr) contributes to adaptive ther-mogenesis in two mouse models and human adipose tis-sues. Uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) gene expression was strongly increased in subcutaneous white adipose tissue (WAT) biopsy specimens from PLWH and in subcutaneous WAT of the Vpr mice, with nearly equivalent mRNA copy number. Histology and functional studies con-firmed beige transformation in subcutaneous but not vis-ceral WAT in the Vpr mice. Measurements of energy balance indicated Vpr mice displayed metabolic inflexibility and could not shift efficiently from carbohydrate to fat metabolism during day-night cycles. Furthermore, Vpr mice showed a marked inability to defend body tem-perature when exposed to 4°C. Importantly, Vpr couples higher tissue catecholamine levels with UCP1 expression independent of b-adrenergic receptors. Our data reveal surprising deficits of adaptive thermogenesis that drive metabolic inefficiency in HIV-1 Vpr mouse models, pro-viding an expanded role for viral factors in the pathogen-esis of metabolic disorders in PLWH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2014-2025
Number of pages12
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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