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Vieira-Potter Lab

We are the PhIT FAT laboratory group, which stands for: Physiological and Immunological Techniques to study the Function of Adipose Tissue. Specifically, we are interested in learning how diet and exercise behaviors can positively affect fat (i.e., “fit fat”). We are passionate about this area of study because a multitude of studies have shown that adipose tissue health in an important predictor of systemic metabolic health and thus, can be directly targeted to prevent and mitigate cardiometabolic diseases (e.g., obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease). Our work has shown that exercise can reduce adipose tissue inflammation and insulin resistance, and improve adipose tissue mitochondrial function. We have also shown that loss of ovarian hormone production, a natural part of the aging process in women that coincides with a significant reduction in physical activity, increases adipose tissue inflammation, causes insulin resistance, and may adversely affect adipose tissue mitochondria.

We are actively investigating the mechanisms by which estrogen and exercise affect adipose tissue. Our current research studies are addressing the following specific questions:

  1. What role does estrogen receptor beta signaling play in mediating adipose tissue-specific metabolic benefits?
  2. What are the brain-specific mechanisms by which estrogen affects physical activity?
  3. Can maternal exercise mitigate the adverse epigenetic effects of environmental estrogens on physical activity and metabolic dysfunction?
  4. What is the mechanism by which soy phytoestrogens improve adipose tissue metabolism?
Vicki Vieira-PotterVicki Vieira-Potter, PhD
Principle Investigator
Rebecca WellyRebecca Welly, MS
Lab Manager
Dusty ShayDusty Shay
Graduate Student
Laura ClartLaura Clart
Graduate Student
Eric Queathem
Undergraduate Research Fellow (McNair Scholar)
Candace Rowles
EXPRESS Undergraduate Research Fellow
Elyse Frazier
EXPRESS undergraduate research fellow
Tanner Jackson
Undergraduate Research Assistant (McNair Scholar)
Dr. Vieira-Potter obtained her undergraduate degree in Biology (minor in Chemistry) from Wheaton College in Norton, MA in 2001. She worked as an undergraduate researcher on 3T3 adipocytes, studying the basics of how lipid droplets form in those cells. She then obtained her Master’s degree in Nutrition from the University of New Hampshire, where she worked with Dr. Anthony Tagliaferro on a project seeking to understand the role of sex hormones and insulin resistance in the relationship between obesity and asthma development. She went on to complete her PhD in Nutrition (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2009) in the laboratory of Dr. Jeff Woods, and exercise immunologist. Her dissertation work demonstrated that exercise has anti-inflammatory effects in obese adipose tissue. Dr. Vieira-Potter completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts in the Obesity and Metabolism laboratory (2012) and started her laboratory at the University of Missouri in 2012. She currently is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. Her laboratory studies how exercise and estrogen affect adipose tissue metabolism. She was among the first to demonstrate that exercise reduces adipose tissue inflammation and that ovarian hormone loss increases adipose tissue inflammation. Since initiating the PhIT FAT laboratory, Dr. Vieira-Potter and her team have demonstrated that aerobic fitness is protective against metabolic complications associated menopause using a variety of animal models; current work aims to elucidate adipocyte-specific mechanisms. She has mentored 5 graduate and > 20 undergraduate students and directs the Rodent Metabolic Phenotyping Core at the MU ASRC. She has 70+ peer-reviewed publications in the area of adipose tissue/cardiometabolic disease.
Beta 3 Adrenergic Receptor Activation Rescues Metabolic Dysfunction in Female Estrogen Receptor Alpha-Null Mice. Clookey SL, Welly RJ, Shay D, Woodford ML, Fritsche KL, Rector RS, Padilla J, Lubahn DB, Vieira-Potter VJ. Front Physiol. 2019;10:9. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00009. eCollection 2019. PubMed PMID: 30804793; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6371032.
Soy-Induced Fecal Metabolome Changes in Ovariectomized and Intact Female Rats: Relationship with Cardiometabolic Health. Vieira-Potter VJ, Cross TL, Swanson KS, Sarma SJ, Lei Z, Sumner LW, Rosenfeld CS. Sci Rep. 2018 Nov 15;8(1):16896.
Increased susceptibility to OVX-associated metabolic dysfunction in UCP1-null mice. Clookey SL, Welly RJ, Zidon TM, Gastecki ML, Woodford ML, Grunewald ZI, Winn NC, Eaton D, Karasseva NG, Sacks HS, Padilla J, Vieira-Potter V. J Endocrinol. 2018 Aug 8.
Voluntary wheel running improves adipose tissue immunometabolism in ovariectomized low-fit rats. Zidon TM, Park YM, Welly RJ, Woodford ML, Scroggins RJ, Britton SL, Koch LG, Booth FW, Padilla J, Kanaley JA, Vieira-Potter VJ. Adipocyte. 2018 Jan 2;7(1):20-34.
Soy Improves Cardiometabolic Health and Cecal Microbiota in Female Low-Fit Rats. Cross TL, Zidon TM, Welly RJ, Park YM, Britton SL, Koch LG, Rottinghaus GE, de Godoy MRC, Padilla J, Swanson KS, Vieira-Potter VJ. Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 23;7(1):9261.
Sex Hormones and Cardiometabolic Health: Role of Estrogen and Estrogen Receptors. Clegg D, Hevener AL, Moreau KL, Morselli E, Criollo A, Van Pelt RE, Vieira-Potter VJ. Endocrinology. 2017 May 1;158(5):1095-1105. doi: 10.1210/en.2016-1677. Review.
Loss of UCP1 exacerbates Western diet-induced glycemic dysregulation independent of changes in body weight in female mice. Winn NC, Vieira-Potter VJ, Gastecki ML, Welly RJ, Scroggins RJ, Zidon TM, Gaines TL, Woodford ML, Karasseva NG, Kanaley JA, Sacks HS, Padilla J. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2017 Jan 1;312(1):R74-R84. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00425.2016. Epub 2016 Nov 23.
Voluntary Running Attenuates Metabolic Dysfunction in Ovariectomized Low-Fit Rats. Park YM, Padilla J, Kanaley JA, Zidon TM, Welly RJ, Britton SL, Koch LG, Thyfault JP, Booth FW, Vieira-Potter VJ. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Feb;49(2):254-264.
Effects of intrinsic aerobic capacity and ovariectomy on voluntary wheel running and nucleus accumbens dopamine receptor gene expression. Park YM, Kanaley JA, Padilla J, Zidon T, Welly RJ, Will MJ, Britton SL, Koch LG, Ruegsegger GN, Booth FW, Thyfault JP, Vieira-Potter VJ. Physiol Behav. 2016 Oct 1;164(Pt A):383-9.
Comparison of Diet versus Exercise on Metabolic Function and Gut Microbiota in Obese Rats. Welly RJ, Liu TW, Zidon TM, Rowles JL 3rd, Park YM, Smith TN, Swanson KS, Padilla J, Vieira-Potter VJ. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 Sep;48(9):1688-98.
Ovariectomized Highly Fit Rats Are Protected against Diet-Induced Insulin Resistance. Park YM, Kanaley JA, Zidon TM, Welly RJ, Scroggins RJ, Britton SL, Koch LG, Thyfault JP, Booth FW, Padilla J, Vieira-Potter VJ. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 Jul;48(7):1259-69.
Gwynn Hall construction

Gwynn Hall Renovations of 2012. Our new laboratory home was worth the wait!

Vikki and Rebecca

Dr. Vieira-Potter and her first graduate student, Rebecca Welly (MS degree in Exercise Physiology, now PhIT Fat lab manager) at FASEB 2014

lab staff at restaurant


Vikki and students

Rebecca Welly (lab manager), Terese Zidon (earns her PhD!), Dr. Vieira-Potter (PI), and Stephanie Clookey (earns her MS!)

Terese and Stephanie with cake

Julia Hatzigeorgiou

Julia Hatzigeorgiou, former undergraduate researcher, presents her work at Life Sciences Research Day

Dr. Vieira-Potter and Dusti Shay

Dr. Vieira-Potter and Dusti Shay (current PhD student) at The Obesity Society meeting in 2018 (Nashville)

Candace Rowles

Candace Rowles, current undergraduate researcher, presents her work at Life Sciences week.