Recent studies have shown that adipose tissue is an immunological organ. While inflammation in energy-storing white adipose tissues has been the focus of intense research, the regulatory mechanisms of inflammation in heat-producing brown adipose tissues remain largely unknown. We previously identified apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 (ASK1) as a critical regulator of brown adipocyte maturation; the PKA-ASK1-p38 axis facilitates uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) induction cell-autonomously. Here, we show that ASK1 suppresses an innate immune pathway and contributes to maintenance of brown adipocytes. We report a novel chemical pull-down method for endogenous kinases using analog sensitive kinase allele (ASKA) technology and identify an ASK1 interactor in brown adipocytes, receptor-interacting serine/threonine-protein kinase 2 (RIPK2). ASK1 disrupts the RIPK2 signaling complex and inhibits the NOD-RIPK2 pathway to downregulate the production of inflammatory cytokines. As a potential biological significance, an in vitro model for intercellular regulation suggests that ASK1 facilitates the expression of UCP1 through the suppression of inflammatory cytokine production. In parallel to our previous report on the PKA-ASK1-p38 axis, our work raises the possibility of an auxiliary role of ASK1 in brown adipocyte maintenance through neutralizing the thermogenesis-suppressive effect of the NOD-RIPK2 pathway.
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