The insulin-sensitizing hormone, adiponectin, belongs to the expanding C1q/TNF (tumour necrosis factor) family of proteins. We recently identified a family of adiponectin paralogues designated as CTRP (C1q/TNF-related protein) 1–7, and in the present study describe CTRP10. In the present study, we show that CTRP1, CTRP2, CTRP3, CTRP5 and CTRP7 transcripts are expressed predominantly by adipose tissue. In contrast, placenta and eye expressed the highest levels of CTRP6 and CTRP10 transcripts respectively. Expression levels of CTRP1, CTRP2, CTRP3, CTRP6 and CTRP7 transcripts are up-regulated in 8-week-old obese (ob/ob) mice relative to lean controls. Treatment of mice with a PPAR-γ (peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor-γ) agonist, rosiglitazone, increased the expression of CTRP1 and decreased CTRP6 transcript levels. All CTRPs are secreted glycoproteins when expressed in mammalian cells. CTRP1, CTRP2, CTRP3, CTRP5 and CTRP6 circulate in the blood and are potential endocrine hormones; their serum levels vary according to the sex and genetic background of mice. Importantly, serum levels of CTRP1 and CTRP6 are increased in adiponectin-null mice. Like adiponectin, all secreted CTRP proteins form trimers as their basic structural units. CTRP3, CTRP5, CTRP6 and CTRP10 trimers are further assembled into higher-order oligomeric complexes via disulfide bonding mediated by their N-terminal cysteine residues. Besides forming homo-oligomers, CTRP1/CTRP6, CTRP2/CTRP7 and adiponectin/CTRP2 are secreted as heterotrimers, thus providing a mechanism to potentially generate functionally distinct ligands. Functional characterization of one such family member, CTRP1, showed that it specifically activates Akt and p44/42-MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) signalling pathways in differentiated mouse myotubes. Moreover, injection of recombinant CTRP1 into mice significantly reduced their serum glucose levels. Thus at least CTRP1 may be considered a novel adipokine. In summary, these molecular, biochemical and functional data provide an important framework to further address the physiological functions and mechanisms of the action of this family of secreted glycoproteins in normal and disease states.

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