Decoration of myocellular lipid droplets with perilipins as a marker for in vivo lipid droplet dynamics: A super-resolution microscopy study in trained athletes and insulin resistant individuals

A. Gemmink, S. Daemen, B. Brouwers, J. Hoeks, G. Schaart, K. Knoops, P. Schrauwen, M.K.C. Hesselink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Web of Science)


In many different cell types neutral lipids can be stored in lipid droplets (LDs). Nowadays, LDs are viewed as dynamic organelles, which store and release fatty acids depending on energy demand (LD dynamics). Proteins like perilipin 2 (PLIN2) and PLIN5 decorate the LD membrane and are determinants of LD lipolysis and fat oxidation, thus affecting LD dynamics. Trained athletes and type 2 diabetes (T2D) patients both have high levels of intramyocellular lipid (IMCL). While IMCL content scales negatively with insulin resistance, athletes are highly insulin sensitive in contrast to T2D patients, the so-called athlete's paradox. Differences in LD dynamics may be an underlying factor explaining the athlete's paradox. We aimed to quantify PLIN2 and PLIN5 content at individual LDs as a reflection of the ability to switch between fatty acid release and storage depending on energy demand. Thus, we developed a novel fluorescent super-resolution microscopy approach and found that PLIN2 protein abundance at the LD surface was higher in T2D patients than in athletes. Localization of adipocyte triglyceride lipase (ATGL) to the LD surface was lower in LDs abundantly decorated with PLIN2. While PLIN5 abundance at the LD surface was similar in athletes and T2D patients, we have observed previously that the number of PLIN5 decorated LDs was higher in athletes, indicating more LDs in close association with mitochondria. Thus, in athletes interaction of LDs with mitochondria was more pronounced and LDs have the protein machinery to be more dynamic, while in T2D patients the LD pool is more inert. This observation contributes to our understanding of the athlete's paradox.
Original languageEnglish
Article number158852
Number of pages11
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta-Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • abhd5
  • athlete's paradox
  • lipid droplet dynamics
  • lipolysis
  • localizes
  • mitochondria
  • overexpression
  • perilipin 2
  • perilipin 5
  • protein
  • sensitivity
  • skeletal muscle
  • skeletal-muscle
  • super-resolution microscopy
  • triacylglycerol
  • type-2 diabetes patients
  • ABHD5
  • Perilipin 2
  • Super-resolution microscopy
  • Perilipin 5
  • Skeletal muscle
  • Lipid droplet dynamics

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