Preadipocytes are present in adipose tissues throughout adult life that can proliferate and differentiate into mature adipocytes in response to environmental cues. Abnormal increase in adipocyte number or size leads to fat tissue expansion. However, it is now recognized that adipocyte hypertrophy is a greater risk factor for metabolic syndrome whereas fat tissue that continues to produce newer and smaller fat cells through preadipocyte differentiation is "metabolically healthy". Because adipocyte hypertrophy is often associated with increased oxidant stress and low grade inflammation, both are linked to disturbed cellular redox, we tested how preadipocyte differentiation may be regulated by beta-mercaptoethanol (BME), a pharmacological redox regulator and radical scavenger, using murine 3T3-F442A preadipocytes as the cell model. Effects of BME on adipogenesis were measured by microphotography, real-time PCR, and Western analysis. Our data demonstrated that preadipocyte differentiation could be regulated by extracellular BME. At an optimal concentration, BME enhanced expression of adipogenic gene markers and lipid accumulation. This effect was associated with BME-mediated down-regulation of inflammatory cytokine expression during early differentiation. BME also attenuated TNFalpha-induced activation of NFkappaB in differentiating preadipocytes and partially restored TNFalpha-mediated suppression on adipogenesis. Using a non-adipogenic HEK293 cell line transfected with luciferase reporter genes, we demonstrated that BME reduced basal and TNFalpha-induced NFkappaB activity and increased basal and ciglitazone-induced PPARgamma activity; both may contribute to the pro-adipogenic effect of BME in differentiating F442A preadipocytes.
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