Obesity arises from an imbalance between the amount of energy stored and consumed and increases the risk of metabolic derangements, imposing significant economic burden to our society. Three types of fat cells -white, brown and beige- are critical for the maintenance of the equilibrium between calories hoarded and those utilized. Augmenting energy dissipation by boosting brown and beige fat thermogenesis has been proposed as a strategy to combat obesity; however, the current arsenal of proteins known to confer thermogenic competency to fat cells remains limited. Our laboratory has discovered that the zinc finger factor ZNF638 is a novel transcriptional regulator of adipocyte function. New work performed in our laboratory has now provided evidence demonstrating that mice lacking ZNF638 in fat tissue have weakened ability to withstand cold temperatures and increased propensity to obesity. Here we propose to assess the physiological role of ZNF638 in adipose tissues and to evaluate the consequences of loss- or gain-of-ZNF638-function on metabolic dysfunction. Furthermore, we plan to determine the molecular mechanisms that regulate ZNF638?s levels and functionality and through which ZNF638 coordinates transcriptional pathways regulating energy balance. At completion, the studies proposed will permit the detailing of ZNF638?s function in fat and the characterization of its upstream regulators, downstream target promoters and transcriptional partnerships, thereby clarifying its mechanism of action. To perform the work proposed we will take advantage of newly generated ZNF638 floxed mice and of molecular and cell biological techniques and reagents utilized in our laboratory over the years. These will be combined with unbiased approaches, as outlined in the aims below.
In Aim 1 we will assess the physiological role of ZNF638 in the control of energy expenditure, glucose homeostasis and metabolic dysfunction through the characterization of adipose specific ZNF638 knock-out and overexpressing mice and will establish the genetic requirement and sufficiency of ZNF638 for beige and brown fat functionality;
in Aim 2 we will identify the transcriptional and signaling pathways that regulate ZNF638 in adipose tissues and reveal the genome-wide targets of this cofactor in fat using state of the art next generation sequencing technologies. In addition we will define the molecular mechanisms through which ZNF638 regulates transcription in fat cells via the characterization of novel key transcriptional partners that enable ZNF638?s regulation of gene expression. We expect that the studies outlined will shed novel light into the mechanisms regulating energy balance and will ultimately permit the definition of new strategies to modulate energy metabolism with possible impact on the development of anti-obesity therapies.

Public Health Relevance

Obesity results from an imbalance between caloric intake and its output and leads to major health issues, including diabetes and fatty liver disease. While the contingent of white fat cells present in the body is responsible for the storage of energy, brown and beige adipocytes burn calories and in virtue of this ability they have been proposed as possible therapeutic targets to combat obesity and metabolic disease. We have recently identified the transcription cofactor ZNF638 as a novel regulator of brown and beige fat cells functionality and propose here to study how this protein busts the unique energy dissipating properties of brown and beige cells and identify the type of signals that can switch it on to possibly discover novel ways to limit excessive fat accumulation and metabolic derangement.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Integrative Physiology of Obesity and Diabetes Study Section (IPOD)
Program Officer
Haft, Carol R
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
New York University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
New York
United States
Zip Code