Menopausal women are susceptible to visceral obesity, which increases the risk of metabolic disorders. However, the mechanisms of menopause-induced visceral fat accumulation are not fully understood. Circulating levels of receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) ligand (RANKL) are elevated in an animal model of menopause. RANKL, a multifunctional cytokine, activates the NF-κB pathway, which serves as a pivotal mediator of inflammatory responses. Here, we investigated whether RANKL-induced non-canonical NF-κB pathway activation induces inflammation and lipid accumulation in adipose tissues. RANKL induced Tnfa expression via the non-canonical NF-κB pathway in bone marrow cells. We therefore analyzed aly/aly mice, in which the non-canonical NF-κB pathway is not activated, owing to an inactive form of NF-κB-inducing kinase. A postmenopausal obesity model was generated by ovariectomy and subsequent high-fat and high-sucrose diet feeding. In aly/aly mice with postmenopausal obesity, serum RANKL levels were elevated, and hepatic lipid accumulation and adipocyte hypertrophy were suppressed, resulting in reduced macrophage infiltration and inflammatory cytokine mRNA expression in visceral adipose tissue. Furthermore, aly/aly mice showed protection from glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, which were observed in ovariectomized WT obese mice. These findings indicate that non-canonical NF-κB pathway activation via serum RANKL elevation contributes to postmenopausal obesity.
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