Histone macroH2A1.2 promotes metabolic health and leanness by inhibiting adipogenesis

Valerio Pazienza, Concetta Panebianco, Francesca Rappa, Domenico Memoli, Michela Borghesan, Sara Cannito, Asami Oji, Giuseppe Mazza, Domenico Tamburrino, Giuseppe Fusai, Rosario Barone, Giulia Bolasco, Francesc Villarroya, Joan Villarroya, Kiyotaka Hatsuzawa, Francesco Cappello, Roberta Tarallo, Tomoko Nakanishi, Manlio Vinciguerra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Obesity has tremendous impact on the health systems. Its epigenetic bases are unclear. MacroH2A1 is a variant of histone H2A, present in two alternatively exon-spliced isoforms macroH2A1.1 and macroH2A1.2, regulating cell plasticity and proliferation, during pluripotency and tumorigenesis. Their role in adipose tissue plasticity is unknown. Results: Here, we show evidence that macroH2A1.1 protein levels in the visceral adipose tissue of obese humans positively correlate with BMI, while macroH2A1.2 is nearly absent. We thus introduced a constitutive GFP-tagged transgene for macroH2A1.2 in mice, and we characterized their metabolic health upon being fed a standard chow diet or a high fat diet. Despite unchanged food intake, these mice exhibit lower adipose mass and improved glucose metabolism both under a chow and an obesogenic diet. In the latter regimen, transgenic mice display smaller pancreatic islets and significantly less inflammation. MacroH2A1.2 overexpression in the mouse adipose tissue induced dramatic changes in the transcript levels of key adipogenic genes; genomic analyses comparing pre-adipocytes to mature adipocytes uncovered only minor changes in macroH2A1.2 genomic distribution upon adipogenic differentiation and suggested differential cooperation with transcription factors. MacroH2A1.2 overexpression markedly inhibited adipogenesis, while overexpression of macroH2A1.1 had opposite effects. Conclusions: MacroH2A1.2 is an unprecedented chromatin component powerfully promoting metabolic health by modulating anti-adipogenic transcriptional networks in the differentiating adipose tissue. Strategies aiming at enhancing macroH2A1.2 expression might counteract excessive adiposity in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalEpigenetics and Chromatin
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 25 2016


  • Adipose tissue
  • Histone variants
  • macroh2a1.2
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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