With funding provided by the BRC, studies led by Dr David Savage have identified two heterozygous frameshift mutations in the perilipin gene (PLIN1) in three families with partial lipodystrophy, severe dyslipidemia, and insulin-resistant diabetes. Subcutaneous fat from the patients was characterized by smaller-than-normal adipocytes, macrophage infiltration, and fibrosis. In contrast to wild-type perilipin, mutant forms of the protein did not increase triglyceride accumulation when expressed heterologously in preadipocytes. These findings define a novel dominant form of inherited lipodystrophy and highlight the serious metabolic consequences of a primary defect in the formation of lipid droplets in adipose tissue. Identifying a new cause of lipodystrophy is also extremely useful clinically as it provides patients with a precise diagnosis.
This work is published in the New England Journal of Medicine