Emilio Mottillo, Ph.D.

Emilio Mottillo, Ph.D.



Emilio Mottillo, Ph.D.

Office Address

6135 Woodward Ave.
Integrative Biosciences Center Rm 3401.

Position Title

Associate Scientist, Hypertension and Vascular Research Division, Henry Ford Hospital
Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology, Wayne State University

Areas of Interest

Lipid droplets, Diabetes, Fatty liver disease, Kidney Disease, Cardiovascular Disease

Narrative Bio

My initial graduate training was in adipose biology which investigated the mechanisms for transcriptional regulation in brown adipose tissue, a thermogenic organ. This work led to the understanding of fatty acids as signaling molecules. My post-doctoral training investigated the role of the energy sensor AMPK in adipose tissue, demonstrating that adipocyte AMPK protects against fatty liver disease. Additionally, my post-doc training examined the role of lipolysis in signaling and how a common genetic variant causes fatty liver disease. We have developed a multi-faceted program that utilizes molecular biology, cell biology and animal physiology to understand lipids in health and disease. We aim to translate basic research findings into therapies for human health. Dr. Mottillo serves on various National Institutes of Health Study Sections and as a reviewer for various peer-reviewed journals. In addition, Dr. Mottillo is actively involved in graduate teaching at WSU and mentoring students.

Dr. Mottillo will consider new students for the 2023-24 academic year.


The overall goal of our research program is to understand how cells store and release lipids and how this process is dysregulated in various metabolic diseases. Cells safely store lipids in organelles called lipid droplets (Figure 1). Our lab investigates the protein interactions that occur on the surface of lipid droplets and how the disruption of these interactions can lead to cardiometabolic diseases such as fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease (Figure 1A). This project expands upon the novel biology of ABHD5 interactions with the PNPLA lipase family to investigate roles in fatty liver disease and kidney disease.
A second major interest is to understand the metabolic signals generated by lipid droplets, how lipids droplets communicate with other organelles, and how cells sense lipids and maintain energy homeostasis. This project utilizes fluorescent microscopy approaches to image lipid metabolism in real-time in tissues such as brown fat, a thermogenic organ (Figure 1B).
To answer these questions in the lab we utilize cutting edge techniques such as real-time imaging of lipid metabolites, super-resolution microscopy and Crispr-Cas9 genome editing.

Dr. Mottillo’s research is currently funded by the National Institutes of Health.


Highlighted publications:

  1. Mottillo E.P, Ljiljana Mladenovic-Lucas, Huamei Zhang, Li Zhou Christopher V. Kelly, Pablo A. Ortiz and James G. Granneman. A FRET sensor for the real-time detection of long chain acyl-CoAs and synthetic ABHD5 ligands. Cell Reports Methods. 2023; 3 100394, February 27, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crmeth.2023.100394 .
  2. Putman A.K., Contreras G.A., and Mottillo E. P. Thermogenic adipose redox mechanisms: potential targets for metabolic disease therapies. Antioxidants. 2023, 12(1), 196; https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox12010196.
  3. Yang A., Mottillo E.P. Adipocyte Lipolysis: from molecular mechanisms of regulation to disease and therapeutics. Biochem. J, 2020 477 (5): 985-1008. PMID: 32168372.
  4. Mottillo E.P, Huamei Zhang, Alexander Yang, Li Zhou and James G. Granneman. Genetically -encoded Sensors to detect fatty acid production and trafficking. Mol Metab. 2019 Nov; 29:55-64. PMID: 31668392.
  5. Alexander Yang*, Mottillo E.P, Ljiljana Mladenovic-Lucas, Li Zhou and James G. Granneman&. Dynamic interactions of ABHD5 with PNPLA3 regulate triacylglycerol metabolism in brown adipocytes. Nature Metabolism 2019 May;1(5):560-569. *Equal contribution,  PMID: 31497752 .
  6. Mottillo EP, Desjardins EM, Crane JD, Smith BK, Kemp BE, Granneman JG and Steinberg GR. Adipocyte AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) protects against insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis by regulating brown and beige adipose tissue function. Cell Metab. 2016; 24(1):118–129.

A complete list of Dr. Mottillo's publications can be found at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/myncbi/browse/collection/50075447/?sort=date&direction=descending

Post Graduate Training

Post doctoral Fellow, McMaster University, Department of Medicine (2013-2016)
Post doctoral Fellow, Wayne State Universiy, Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics (2016-2019)

Honors and Awards

  • 2019 HFMG Outstanding Publication of the year (Basic Science), Henry Ford Hospital.
  • Roger Davis Investigator Award for Transitional Faculty, Kern Lipid Conference.
  • FASEB Travel Award, FASEB Lipid Droplets on the Move from Health to Disease
  • Future of Science Fund scholarship, Keystone Symposia Travel Award, Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Post-doctoral Fellowship Award, Canadian Diabetes Association-A prestigious fellowship award for research in the areas of diabetes and obesity. Eleven fellowships were awarded in 2013.
  • Travel Award, Deuel Conference on Lipids
  • First Place Oral Presentation Award, Wayne State University
  • First Place Oral Presentation Award, Wayne State University
  • Division of Research Award, Wayne State University
  • Doctoral Research Award, Canadian Institutes of Health Research-This is a highly prestigious award from the government of Canada given to doctoral trainees. Only four awards were given to students studying abroad that year.
  • Basic Research Presentation Award, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Wayne State University, One award annually for best presentation.
  • Graduate Professional Scholarship, Wayne State University
  • Thomas C. Rumble Fellowship, Wayne State University, A Graduate award given to distinguished graduate students.
  • Graduate Research Assistantship, Wayne State University
  • Ontario Graduate Scholarship, University of Windsor-A merit-based scholarship awarded to distinguished graduate students. Postgraduate Tuition Scholarship, University of Windsor
  • Travel Scholarship Bursary, University of Windsor
  • Travel Scholarship Bursary, University of Windsor


B.Sc. in Biological Sciences, University of Windsor (2001)
M.Sc. in Biological Sciences, University of Windsor (2003)
Ph.D. in Pathology, Wayne State University (2013)

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