Our long-range goal is to understand the transcriptional basis of energy homeostasis and how its alteration contributes to obesity and metabolic diseases. Brown fat is a tissue that is specialized in energy expenditure. It is present is adult humans and its activity is inversely associated with human obesity. Thus, brown fat is potentially an attractive therapeutic target tissue for obesity and metabolic diseases. We are interested in how brown fat development and function is regulated by the dynamics of histone methylation and demethylation. We found that promoters of a subset of brown fat genes are methylated at a specific lysine residue of histone H3 in preadipocytes and are demethylated during differentiation. We further identified a demethylase that is responsible for the demethylation during differentiation. We propose that this demethylase-catalyzed removal of histone methylation plays a key role in brown fat determination and metabolism. In the first aim, we will investigate in detail the roles of this demethylase, in particular its demethylation activiy, in brown fat gene expression and brown fat cell metabolism, and whether this demethylase is required for conversion of white adipocytes to brown adipocytes. In the second aim, we will investigate the mechanism by which this demethylase regulates brown fat determination and function. We will perform ChIP-seq to map the occupancy of both this demethylase and its substrate, which will provide us a genome-wide, mechanistic and functional view of this demethylase. In the third aim, we will investigate the in vivo role of this demethylase in brown fa metabolism through both transgenic mice and loss-of-functional studies.

Public Health Relevance

Alterations in pathways that regulate energy balance are responsible for obesity and metabolic diseases. Brown fat is a tissue that is specialized for energy expenditure. Brown fat is present in humans and is inversely correlated with obesity. Our studies address the underlying mechanisms controlling brown fat development and function, which will clearly be very useful for the development of new therapies for obesity and metabolic diseases.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Cellular Aspects of Diabetes and Obesity Study Section (CADO)
Program Officer
Haft, Carol R
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Huang, Lei; Pan, Dongning; Chen, Qingbo et al. (2017) Transcription factor Hlx controls a systematic switch from white to brown fat through Prdm16-mediated co-activation. Nat Commun 8:68
Pan, Dongning; Huang, Lei; Zhu, Lihua J et al. (2015) Jmjd3-Mediated H3K27me3 Dynamics Orchestrate Brown Fat Development and Regulate White Fat Plasticity. Dev Cell 35:568-83
Pan, Dongning; Mao, Chunxiao; Quattrochi, Brian et al. (2014) MicroRNA-378 controls classical brown fat expansion to counteract obesity. Nat Commun 5:4725
Pan, Dongning; Mao, Chunxiao; Wang, Yong-Xu (2013) Suppression of gluconeogenic gene expression by LSD1-mediated histone demethylation. PLoS One 8:e66294
Wei, Ping; Pan, Dongning; Mao, Chunxiao et al. (2012) RNF34 is a cold-regulated E3 ubiquitin ligase for PGC-1? and modulates brown fat cell metabolism. Mol Cell Biol 32:266-75
Pan, Dongning; Mao, Chunxiao; Zou, Tie et al. (2012) The histone demethylase Jhdm1a regulates hepatic gluconeogenesis. PLoS Genet 8:e1002761
Angione, Alison R; Jiang, Chunhui; Pan, Dongning et al. (2011) PPARýý regulates satellite cell proliferation and skeletal muscle regeneration. Skelet Muscle 1:33
Wang, Yong-Xu (2010) PPARs: diverse regulators in energy metabolism and metabolic diseases. Cell Res 20:124-37
Pan, Dongning; Fujimoto, Masaki; Lopes, Andrea et al. (2009) Twist-1 is a PPARdelta-inducible, negative-feedback regulator of PGC-1alpha in brown fat metabolism. Cell 137:73-86