Skip to main content
  • Oral presentation
  • Open access
  • Published:

Role of cGMP in fat and metabolism


The cGMP pathway regulates a large spectrum of physiological processes including metabolism. Our aim is to elucidate the cGMP signaling cascade in adipose tissue. Two types of fat tissue can be distinguished in mammals: white adipose tissue (WAT), which is the biggest storage of energy, and brown fat (BAT) that can dissipate energy as heat (non-shivering thermogenesis). We and others found that cGMP enhances differentiation of brown and white adipocytes [14].

Methods and results

In our studies, we initially focused on protein kinase G (PKG/cGK), which is expressed both in white and brown adipocytes. Using gain- and loss-of-function models, we found that PKG is the major receptor for cGMP in brown adipocytes. We investigated the downstream targets of PKG and found a novel negative feedback loop that regulates cGMP levels. Importantly, in the presence of increased cGMP levels, we found an enhanced development of brown-like adipocytes, so-called beige or brite (brown in white) cells both in vitro and in vivo. These data indicate that cGMP not only enhances development of “classical” brown adipocytes, but also promotes development of beige cells.

Therefore, we studied the effect of cGMP in white adipocytes in more detail. Lentiviral overexpression of PKG enhanced differentiation of white adipocytes. Moreover, PKG induced the expression of a brown-like adipogenic program in white fat cells. Treatment of mice with the PDE inhibitor sildenafil for only 7 days promoted “browning” of WAT. Further studies regarding the cGMP signaling cascade upstream of PKG revealed that both particulate as well as soluble guanylyl cyclases are the source of cGMP in adipocytes.


In conclusion, cGMP is essential for normal differentiation of white and brown adipocytes. The cGMP/PKG pathway also induces “browning” of white fat and thus could be a promising target for developing novel therapies to treat metabolic diseases that are associated with imbalances in energy homeostasis including obesity and cachexia.


  1. Bordicchia M, Liu D, Amri EZ, Ailhaud G, Dessì-Fulgheri P, Zhang C, Takahashi N, Sarzani R, Collins S: Cardiac natriuretic peptides act via p38 MAPK to induce the brown fat thermogenic program in mouse and human adipocytes. J Clin Invest. 2012, 122: 1022-1036. 10.1172/JCI59701.

    Article  PubMed Central  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Haas B, Mayer P, Jennissen K, Scholz D, Berriel Diaz M, Bloch W, Herzig S, Fässler R, Pfeifer A: Protein kinase g controls brown fat cell differentiation and mitochondrial biogenesis. Sci Signal. 2009, 2: ra78-10.1126/scisignal.2000511.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Miyashita K, Itoh H, Tsujimoto H, Tamura N, Fukunaga Y, Sone M, Yamahara K, Taura D, Inuzuka M, Sonoyama T, Nakao K: Natriuretic peptides/cGMP/cGMP-dependent protein kinase cascades promote muscle mitochondrial biogenesis and prevent obesity. Diabetes. 2009, 58: 2880-2892. 10.2337/db09-0393.

    Article  PubMed Central  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Nisoli E, Clementi E, Paolucci C, Cozzi V, Tonello C, Sciorati C, Bracale R, Valerio A, Francolini M, Moncada S, Carruba MO: Mitochondrial biogenesis in mammals: the role of endogenous nitric oxide. Science. 2003, 299: 896-899. 10.1126/science.1079368.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alexander Pfeifer.

Rights and permissions

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Pfeifer, A., Kilić, A. & Hoffmann, L. Role of cGMP in fat and metabolism. BMC Pharmacol Toxicol 14 (Suppl 1), O25 (2013).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: