Cell-autonomous light sensitivity via Opsin3 regulates fuel utilization in brown adipocytes

Mari Sato, Tadataka Tsuji, Kunyan Yang, Xiaozhi Ren, Jonathan M. Dreyfuss, Tian Lian Huang, Chih Hao Wang, Farnaz Shamsi, Luiz O. Leiria, Matthew D. Lynes, King Wai Yau, Yu Hua Tseng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Opsin3 (Opn3) is a transmembrane heptahelical G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) with the potential to produce a nonvisual photoreceptive effect. Interestingly, anatomical profiling of GPCRs reveals that Opn3 mRNA is highly expressed in adipose tissue. The photosensitive functions of Opn3 in mammals are poorly understood, and whether Opn3 has a role in fat is entirely unknown. In this study, we found that Opn3-knockout (Opn3-KO) mice were prone to diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance. At the cellular level, Opn3-KO brown adipocytes cultured in darkness had decreased glucose uptake and lower nutrient-induced mitochondrial respiration than wild-type (WT) cells. Light exposure promoted mitochondrial activity and glucose uptake in WT adipocytes but not in Opn3-KO cells. Brown adipocytes carrying a defective mutation in Opn3's putative G protein-binding domain also exhibited a reduction in glucose uptake and mitochondrial respiration in darkness. Using RNA-sequencing, we identified several novel light-sensitive and Opn3-dependent molecular signatures in brown adipocytes. Importantly, direct exposure of brown adipose tissue (BAT) to light in living mice significantly enhanced thermogenic capacity of BAT, and this effect was diminished in Opn3-KO animals. These results uncover a previously unrecognized cell-autonomous, light-sensing mechanism in brown adipocytes via Opn3-GPCR signaling that can regulate fuel metabolism and mitochondrial respiration. Our work also provides a molecular basis for developing light-based treatments for obesity and its related metabolic disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere3000630
JournalPLoS biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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