Claudio Villanueva, PhD


Lab Website


  • English
  • Spanish

Academic Information

  • Departments: Biochemistry - Adjunct Associate Professor

Academic Office Information

  • 801-587-9209
  • Emma Eccles Jones Medical Research Building
    15 N Medical Dr E, Room: 5800K
    Salt Lake City, UT

Research Statement

The research objectives of my laboratory are to investigate the transcriptional mechanisms that regulate adipocyte development and biology. Our work is beginning to unravel the molecular mechanisms that distinguish between the white, brown, and beige adipocyte subtypes. We are finding that the combinatorial actions of PPARγ coactivators TLE3 and Prdm16 are key to establishing the phenotypic characteristics of adipocyte subtypes. Because brown and beige adipocytes consume carbohydrates and lipids when activated, we hope to understand how their metabolic program is regulated to identify new strategies to treat diabetes. I have had extraordinary mentoring and research training through my academic career and have gained expertise in endocrinology, genetics, physiology, lipid biochemistry, transcription, and cellular and molecular biology. As a Ph.D. student at UCSF I studied in the laboratory of Robert Farese Jr. M.D. at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease where I investigated an enzyme (DGAT1) that catalyzes the final step in triglyceride biosynthesis and studied its role in hepatic lipid metabolism in mice. The exceptional training acquired at UCSF led to my postdoctoral training at UCLA in the laboratory of Peter Tontonoz M.D., Ph.D., an HHMI investigator that investigates nuclear receptor biology and metabolism. The current application builds logically from my prior work, and I have chosen collaborators who will provide additional expertise in mouse phenotyping studies, protein expression and purification, and cellular energetics.

Education History

Type School Degree
Postdoctoral Fellowship Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California Los Angeles
Gene Expression
Postdoctoral Fellow
Doctoral Training Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, University of California
Lipid Metabolism
Undergraduate California State University

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Petersen C, Bell R, Klag KA, Lee SH, Soto R, Ghazaryan A, Buhrke K, Ekiz HA, Ost KS, Boudina S, OConnell RM, Cox JE, Villanueva CJ, Stephens WZ, Round JL (2018). T cell-mediated regulation of the microbiota protects against obesity. Science, 365(6451).
  2. Pearson S, Loft A, Rajbhandari P, Simcox J, Lee S, Tontonoz P, Mandrup S, Villanueva CJ (2019). Loss of TLE3 promotes the mitochondrial program in beige adipocytes and improves glucose metabolism. Genes Dev, 33(13-14), 747-762.
  3. Geoghegan G, Simcox J, Seldin MM, Parnell TJ, Stubben C, Just S, Begaye L, Lusis AJ, Villanueva CJ (2019). Targeted deletion of Tcf7l2 in adipocytes promotes adipocyte hypertrophy and impaired glucose metabolism. Mol Metab, 24, 44-63.
  4. Chang SH, Yun UJ, Choi JH, Kim S, Lee AR, Lee DH, Seo MJ, Panic V, Villanueva CJ, Song NJ, Park KW (2019). Identification of Phf16 and Pnpla3 as new adipogenic factors regulated by phytochemicals. J Cell Biochem, 120(3), 3599-3610.
  5. Runtsch MC, Nelson MC, Lee SH, Voth W, Alexander M, Hu R, Wallace J, Petersen C, Panic V, Villanueva CJ, Evason KJ, Bauer KM, Mosbruger T, Boudina S, Bronner M, Round JL, Drummond MJ, OConnell RM (2019). Anti-inflammatory microRNA-146a protects mice from diet-induced metabolic disease. PLoS Genet, 15(2), e1007970.
  6. Bond ST, Moody SC, Liu Y, Civelek M, Villanueva CJ, Gregorevic P, Kingwell BA, Hevener AL, Lusis AJ, Henstridge DC, Calkin AC, Drew BG (2018). The E3 ligase MARCH5 is a PPARγ target gene that regulates mitochondria and metabolism in adipocytes. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 316(2), E293-E304.
  7. Storelli G, Nam HJ, Simcox J, Villanueva CJ, Thummel CS (2018). Drosophila HNF4 Directs a Switch in Lipid Metabolism that Supports the Transition to Adulthood. Dev Cell, 48(2), 200-214.e6.
  8. Song NJ, Chang SH, Kim S, Panic V, Jang BH, Yun UJ, Choi JH, Li Z, Park KM, Yoon JH, Kim S, Yoo JH, Ling J, Thomas K, Villanueva CJ, Li DY, Ahn JY, Ku JM, Park KW (2018). PI3Ka-Akt1-mediated Prdm4 induction in adipose tissue increases energy expenditure, inhibits weight gain, and improves insulin resistance in diet-induced obese mice. Cell Death Dis, 9(9), 876.
  9. Karanth S, Adams JD, Serrano MLA, Quittner-Strom EB, Simcox J, Villanueva CJ, Ozcan L, Holland WL, Yost HJ, Vella A, Schlegel A (2018). A Hepatocyte FOXN3-α Cell Glucagon Axis Regulates Fasting Glucose. Cell Rep, 24(2), 312-319.
  10. Sommakia S, Houlihan PR, Deane SS, Simcox JA, Torres NS, Jeong MY, Winge DR, Villanueva CJ, Chaudhuri D (2017). Mitochondrial cardiomyopathies feature increased uptake and diminished efflux of mitochondrial calcium. J Mol Cell Cardiol, 113, 22-32.
  11. Simcox J, Geoghegan G, Maschek JA, Bensard CL, Pasquali M, Miao R, Lee S, Jiang L, Huck I, Kershaw EE, Donato AJ, Apte U, Longo N, Rutter J, Schreiber R, Zechner R, Cox J, Villanueva CJ (2017). Global Analysis of Plasma Lipids Identifies Liver-Derived Acylcarnitines as a Fuel Source for Brown Fat Thermogenesis. Cell Metab, 26(3), 509-522.e6.
  12. Song NJ, Chang SH, Li DY, Villanueva CJ, Park KW (2017). Induction of thermogenic adipocytes: molecular targets and thermogenic small molecules. 49(7), e353.
  13. Wang J, Rajbhandari P, Damianov A, Han A, Sallam T, Waki H, Villanueva CJ, Lee SD, Nielsen R, Mandrup S, Reue K, Young SG, Whitelegge J, Saez E, Black DL, Tontonoz P (2017). RNA-binding protein PSPC1 promotes the differentiation-dependent nuclear export of adipocyte RNAs. J Clin Invest, 127(3), 987-1004.
  14. Kikani CK, Wu X, Paul L, Sabic H, Shen Z, Shakya A, Keefe A, Villanueva C, Kardon G, Graves B, Tantin D, Rutter J (2016). Pask integrates hormonal signaling with histone modification via Wdr5 phosphorylation to drive myogenesis.LID - 10.7554/eLife.17985 [doi]LID - e17985 [pii]. eLife, 5.
  15. Drew BG, Hamidi H, Zhou Z, Villanueva CJ, Krum SA, Calkin AC, Parks BW, Ribas V, Kalajian NY, Phun J, Daraei P, Christofk HR, Hewitt SC, Korach KS, Tontonoz P, Lusis AJ, Slamon DJ, Hurvitz SA, Hevener AL (2015). Estrogen receptor (ER)α-regulated lipocalin 2 expression in adipose tissue links obesity with breast cancer progression. J Biol Chem, 290(9), 5566-81.
  16. Villanueva CJ, Vergnes L, Wang J, Drew BG, Hong C, Tu Y, Hu Y, Peng X, Xu F, Saez E, Wroblewski K, Hevener AL, Reue K, Fong LG, Young SG, Tontonoz P (2013). Adipose subtype-selective recruitment of TLE3 or Prdm16 by PPARγ specifies lipid storage versus thermogenic gene programs. Cell Metab, 17(3), 423-35.
  17. Zhang Q, Ramlee MK, Brunmeir R, Villanueva CJ, Halperin D, Xu F (2012). Dynamic and distinct histone modifications modulate the expression of key adipogenesis regulatory genes. Cell Cycle, 11(23), 4310-22.
  18. Villanueva CJ, Waki H, Godio C, Nielsen R, Chou WL, Vargas L, Wroblewski K, Schmedt C, Chao LC, Boyadjian R, Mandrup S, Hevener A, Saez E, Tontonoz P (2011). TLE3 is a dual-function transcriptional coregulator of adipogenesis. Cell Metab, 13(4), 413-427.
  19. Villanueva CJ, Tontonoz P (2010). Licensing PPARγ to work in macrophages. Immunity, 33(5), 647-9.
  20. Villanueva CJ, Monetti M, Shih M, Zhou P, Watkins SM, Bhanot S, Farese RV Jr (2009). Specific role for acyl CoA:Diacylglycerol acyltransferase 1 (Dgat1) in hepatic steatosis due to exogenous fatty acids. Hepatology, 50(2), 434-42.
  21. Chao LC, Bensinger SJ, Villanueva CJ, Wroblewski K, Tontonoz P (2008). Inhibition of adipocyte differentiation by Nur77, Nurr1, and Nor1. Mol Endocrinol, 22(12), 2596-608.
  22. Park KW, Waki H, Villanueva CJ, Monticelli LA, Hong C, Kang S, MacDougald OA, Goldrath AW, Tontonoz P (2008). Inhibitor of DNA binding 2 is a small molecule-inducible modulator of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma expression and adipocyte differentiation. Mol Endocrinol, 22(9), 2038-48.
  23. Minehira K, Young SG, Villanueva CJ, Yetukuri L, Oresic M, Hellerstein MK, Farese RV Jr, Horton JD, Preitner F, Thorens B, Tappy L (2008). Blocking VLDL secretion causes hepatic steatosis but does not affect peripheral lipid stores or insulin sensitivity in mice. J Lipid Res, 49(9), 2038-44.
  24. Streeper RS, Koliwad SK, Villanueva CJ, Farese RV Jr (2006). Effects of DGAT1 deficiency on energy and glucose metabolism are independent of adiponectin. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 291(2), E388-94.
  25. Pearson S, Loft A, Rajbhandari P, Simcox J, Lee S, Donato A, Tontonoz P, Mandrup S, Villanueva CJ (Under Review). Loss of TLE3 Promotes Mitochondrial Program in Beige Adipocytes and Improves Glucose Metabolism (2019). Genes Dev.
  26. Geoghegan GM, Simcox JA, Seldin M, Lee S, Lusis AJ, Villanueva CJ (Under Review). Targeted deletion of diabetes risk gene TCF7L2 in adipocytes promotes adipocyte hypertrophy and impaired glucose metabolism. (2019). Mol Metab.


  1. Villanueva CJ (09/05/1). Inclusive Science Empowers the Superhero within Us All. Villanueva CJ. Cell Metabolism. 2017 SEPT 5. Cell Metab, 26(3), 453.


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