Molecular and Cellular Basis of Obesity Core

Director: David A. Bernlohr, Ph.D.
Associate Director: Douglas Mashek, Ph.D.

The focus of the Molecular Metabolism Core is to assist investigators pursuing research projects on the fundamental mechanisms that link central and peripheral energy metabolism to nutrition and obesity research.  As such, faculty, staff and students in this theme area carry out a wide variety of analyses designed to address the mechanisms that drive cells, tissues and systems towards homeostasis and to understand those processes in pathophysiological conditions.  MNOC investigators in this research area typically work in some aspect of energy metabolism involving one or more tissues in the gut-liver-adipose-muscle-pancreas-brain axis.  As the tagline for the entire Minnesota Nutrition and Obesity Center is from “Cells to Society”, the Molecular Metabolism Core is on the molecular end of that spectrum and focuses on the molecules and cellular systems that drive nutrition and obesity research.  Moreover, the Core hypothesizes that by providing key technology assets and associated training to MNOC investigators that their research programs will be enhanced and catalyzed.

The goals of the Molecular Metabolism Core Facility are to:

  • Facilitate molecular studies in metabolic bioenergetics by providing access to Seahorse XF24 analyzer technology.
  • Enable gain/loss of function research strategies by providing a viral core specializing in lentivirus, adenovirus and recombinant adeno-associated (rAAV) virus production.
  • Provide access to differentiating preadipocyte cell lines from mouse (3T3-L1) and human (lean, obese insulin-sensitive and obese insulin-resistant donors) to investigators as sources as experimental systems of study.
  • Train users in specialized expertise and provide consultative services needed to develop and enhance their research in the nutrition and obesity field.

Services provided are organized in three subcores:

  1. Metabolic Bioenergetics:

    To provide access to the Seahorse XF24 analyzer technology allowing metabolic phenotyping of living cells, tissue or isolated mitochondria by simultaneously measuring respiration and glycolysis in real-time. Operationally, the subcore will provide access, training and support on the Seahorse XF24 Analyzer and consultation for experimental design and data analysis. This technology will allow users to measure key parameters of mitochondrial function and quantify cellular bioenergetics identifying mitochondrial dysfunction and measuring cells response to stress.

  2. Viral Production:

    To explore the molecular and cellular basis for obesity and related co-morbidities, the Molecular Metabolism Core has developed a virus production facility. The subcore will provide production of viral vectors (lentivirus, adenovirus and recombinant adeno-associated virus, rAAV) for over expression or silencing of specific gene products.
    In addition to the virus production capabilities, the subcore maintains a primer sets library for gene expression analysis.

    Click here to access MMC viral core user Request Form.

  3. Adipocyte Cell Biology:

    The basic function of this subcore is to develop, store and provide mouse and human adipocyte cell strains for use by core investigators.  Murine adipocyte cell line model (3T3-L1) and human differentiating preadipocytes from lean, obese insulin-sensitive and obese insulin-resistant donors are available. Investigators wishing to pursue experimental problems in these cell strains will be provided with starting cultures and directions for growing and differentiating cells in culture.

Molecular Metabolism Journal Club:  The MMJC meets every Monday from September to June to present research articles by investigators, postdoctoral fellows or graduate students actively studying obesity, nutrition or obesity-related diseases. The main objective of this seminar series is to report on contemporary literature and enhance the knowledge into the role of obesity and nutrition in diabetes,, cancer, aging, the microbiome, immunology/inflammation, etc. Also, MMJC presents a forum to allow graduate students and postdocs to present their research projects and latest unpublished findings to others MNOC members. The schedule is available as a google document (Schedule&Speakers in

Contact Information:
Rocio Foncea, PhD
Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
7-178 MCB
420 Washington Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Please acknowledge the Minnesota Obesity Center in your publications by: "These studies were supported in part by NIH/NIDDK NORC Grant Number P30 DK050456."