The effect of extracellular ATP on adipogenesis was investigated using the mouse 3T3-L1 cell line. Incubation of cells with ATP (1–100 μM) for 5 min induced actin filament reorganization and membrane ruffling mediated through P2Y receptors. Enhancement of preadipocyte migration into fat cell clusters is one of the essential processes of adipose tissue development in vivo and cell migration assays revealed that stimulation of P2Y receptors enhanced chemokinesis (migration) in a concentration dependent manner. In this cell line, growth arrest is required before initiation of differentiation and growth-arrested post-confluent cells can be converted into adipocytes by the presence of the adipogenic hormones dexamethasone, 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine and insulin. On the other hand, those hormones alone do not trigger differentiation in proliferating cells. ATP did not induce differentiation when applied alone to either proliferating or postconfluent cells. By contrast, proliferating cells (density <50%) preincubated with ATP for 5 min and subsequently given the adipogenic hormones in the continued presence of ATP, underwent adipocyte differentiation mediated through phospholipase C-coupled P2Y receptors. These adipocytes were found to show very similar characteristics, including morphology and intracellular triacylglycerol accumulation compared with adipocytes differentiated from post-confluent preadipocytes with those adipogenic hormones. When proliferating cells were preincubated with ATP before the addition of the adipogenic hormones, gene expression of aP2 (adipose protein 2) was markedly increased within 6 days, whereas without ATP pretreatment the expression level stayed very low. These results suggest that extracellular ATP renders preadipocytes responsive to adipogenic hormones during the growth phase.

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