In Vivo Adeno-Associated Viral Vector–Mediated Genetic Engineering of White and Brown Adipose Tissue in Adult Mice

  1. Fatima Bosch
  1. Center of Animal Biotechnology and Gene Therapy and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, and Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Diabetes y Enfermedades Metabólicas Asociadas, Barcelona, Spain
  1. Corresponding author: Fatima Bosch,{at}
  1. S.M. and E.C. contributed equally to this work.


Adipose tissue is pivotal in the regulation of energy homeostasis through the balance of energy storage and expenditure and as an endocrine organ. An inadequate mass and/or alterations in the metabolic and endocrine functions of adipose tissue underlie the development of obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. To fully understand the metabolic and molecular mechanism(s) involved in adipose dysfunction, in vivo genetic modification of adipocytes holds great potential. Here, we demonstrate that adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors, especially serotypes 8 and 9, mediated efficient transduction of white (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT) in adult lean and obese diabetic mice. The use of short versions of the adipocyte protein 2 or uncoupling protein-1 promoters or micro-RNA target sequences enabled highly specific, long-term AAV-mediated transgene expression in white or brown adipocytes. As proof of concept, delivery of AAV vectors encoding for hexokinase or vascular endothelial growth factor to WAT or BAT resulted in increased glucose uptake or increased vessel density in targeted depots. This method of gene transfer also enabled the secretion of stable high levels of the alkaline phosphatase marker protein into the bloodstream by transduced WAT. Therefore, AAV-mediated genetic engineering of adipose tissue represents a useful tool for the study of adipose pathophysiology and, likely, for the future development of new therapeutic strategies for obesity and diabetes.


  • Received February 22, 2013.
  • Accepted September 6, 2013.

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  1. Diabetes vol. 62 no. 12 4012-4022
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