Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. D. Travis Thomas


Vitamin D has been connected with increased intramyocellular lipid (IMCL) mitochondrial function in skeletal muscle. It is also shown to prevent lipotoxicity in several tissues, but this has not yet been examined in skeletal muscle. Perilipin 2 (PLIN2), a lipid droplet protein upregulated with vitamin D treatment, is integral to managing IMCL capacity and lipid oxidation in skeletal muscle. Increased lipid storage and oxidation is associated with increased tolerance to a hyperlipidic environment and resistance to lipotoxicity. Therefore, I hypothesized that vitamin D increases β-oxidation and lipid turnover though a PLIN2 mediated mechanism, thereby preventing lipotoxicity.

This hypothesis was divided into two specific aims: 1) Characterize the effect of vitamin D and PLIN2 on lipid turnover and β-oxidation in mature myotubes, and 2) Determine the role of vitamin D and PLIN2 in regulating key markers of lipotoxicity. To address these aims, cells were treated with or without vitamin D, palmitate, and PLIN2 siRNA in an eight group, 2x2x2 design. Key experiments included quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction for markers of lipid accumulation, lipolysis, and lipotoxicity; Seahorse oxygen consumption assay; 14C-palmitate oxidation assay; and analyses of lipid accumulation and profile.

Failure of the palmitate treatment to produce a reliable model for lipotoxicity resulted in negative data for Aim 2 of this dissertation and a focus on vitamin D and PLIN2 knockdown treatments as a four group, 2x2 model. Aim 1 showed that vitamin D reliably increases markers of lipolysis and lipid accumulation. Most of these markers were in turn decreased after PLIN2 knockdown, and DGAT2 exhibited an interaction effect between the two treatments. Contrary to our hypothesis and some published research, PLIN2 knockdown did not prevent lipid accumulation. Vitamin D increased oxygen consumption, especially consumption driven by mitochondrial complex II. PLIN2 knockdown decreased oxygen consumption and demonstrated an interaction effect specific to mitochondrial complex II.

Data in this dissertation show that vitamin D increases mitochondrial function, and these effects are at least in part accomplished through a PLIN2 mediated mechanism. However, this work lacks the data required to make specific claims regarding β-oxidation and lipid turnover. This research is some of the first to show that PLIN2 knockdown carries negative impacts for skeletal muscle mitochondria and makes valuable contributions to general knowledge of how vitamin D and lipid storage impact muscle health and function. This ultimately provides additional evidence to advocate for vitamin D supplementation as a means of improving musculoskeletal health and function. Future research should investigate how vitamin D and PLIN2 impact markers of lipotoxicity in skeletal muscle.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Heath Institute of General Medical Sciences [grant number 1P20GM121327-01] and National Institute on Aging [grant number 1R21AG046762-01A1].