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      Brown and beige fat: development, function and therapeutic potential

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      Nature Medicine

      Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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          Abstract

          Adipose tissue, best known for its role in fat storage, can also suppress weight gain and metabolic disease through the action of specialized, heat-producing adipocytes. Brown adipocytes are located in dedicated depots and express constitutively high levels of thermogenic genes, whereas inducible 'brown-like' adipocytes, also known as beige cells, develop in white fat in response to various activators. The activities of brown and beige fat cells reduce metabolic disease, including obesity, in mice and correlate with leanness in humans. Many genes and pathways that regulate brown and beige adipocyte biology have now been identified, providing a variety of promising therapeutic targets for metabolic disease.

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          Most cited references 182

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          Brown adipose tissue: function and physiological significance.

          The function of brown adipose tissue is to transfer energy from food into heat; physiologically, both the heat produced and the resulting decrease in metabolic efficiency can be of significance. Both the acute activity of the tissue, i.e., the heat production, and the recruitment process in the tissue (that results in a higher thermogenic capacity) are under the control of norepinephrine released from sympathetic nerves. In thermoregulatory thermogenesis, brown adipose tissue is essential for classical nonshivering thermogenesis (this phenomenon does not exist in the absence of functional brown adipose tissue), as well as for the cold acclimation-recruited norepinephrine-induced thermogenesis. Heat production from brown adipose tissue is activated whenever the organism is in need of extra heat, e.g., postnatally, during entry into a febrile state, and during arousal from hibernation, and the rate of thermogenesis is centrally controlled via a pathway initiated in the hypothalamus. Feeding as such also results in activation of brown adipose tissue; a series of diets, apparently all characterized by being low in protein, result in a leptin-dependent recruitment of the tissue; this metaboloregulatory thermogenesis is also under hypothalamic control. When the tissue is active, high amounts of lipids and glucose are combusted in the tissue. The development of brown adipose tissue with its characteristic protein, uncoupling protein-1 (UCP1), was probably determinative for the evolutionary success of mammals, as its thermogenesis enhances neonatal survival and allows for active life even in cold surroundings.
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            Identification and importance of brown adipose tissue in adult humans.

            Obesity results from an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure. In rodents and newborn humans, brown adipose tissue helps regulate energy expenditure by thermogenesis mediated by the expression of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), but brown adipose tissue has been considered to have no physiologic relevance in adult humans. We analyzed 3640 consecutive (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose ((18)F-FDG) positron-emission tomographic and computed tomographic (PET-CT) scans performed for various diagnostic reasons in 1972 patients for the presence of substantial depots of putative brown adipose tissue. Such depots were defined as collections of tissue that were more than 4 mm in diameter, had the density of adipose tissue according to CT, and had maximal standardized uptake values of (18)F-FDG of at least 2.0 g per milliliter, indicating high metabolic activity. Clinical indexes were recorded and compared with those of date-matched controls. Immunostaining for UCP1 was performed on biopsy specimens from the neck and supraclavicular regions in patients undergoing surgery. Substantial depots of brown adipose tissue were identified by PET-CT in a region extending from the anterior neck to the thorax. Tissue from this region had UCP1-immunopositive, multilocular adipocytes indicating brown adipose tissue. Positive scans were seen in 76 of 1013 women (7.5%) and 30 of 959 men (3.1%), corresponding to a female:male ratio greater than 2:1 (P<0.001). Women also had a greater mass of brown adipose tissue and higher (18)F-FDG uptake activity. The probability of the detection of brown adipose tissue was inversely correlated with years of age (P<0.001), outdoor temperature at the time of the scan (P=0.02), beta-blocker use (P<0.001), and among older patients, body-mass index (P=0.007). Defined regions of functionally active brown adipose tissue are present in adult humans, are more frequent in women than in men, and may be quantified noninvasively with the use of (18)F-FDG PET-CT. Most important, the amount of brown adipose tissue is inversely correlated with body-mass index, especially in older people, suggesting a potential role of brown adipose tissue in adult human metabolism. 2009 Massachusetts Medical Society
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              A PGC1α-dependent myokine that drives browning of white fat and thermogenesis

              Exercise benefits a variety of organ systems in mammals, and some of the best-recognized effects of exercise on muscle are mediated by the transcriptional coactivator PGC1α Here we show that PGC1α expression in muscle stimulates an increase in expression of Fndc5, a membrane protein that is cleaved and secreted as a new hormone, irisin. Irisin acts on white adipose cells in culture and in vivo to stimulate UCP1 expression and a broad program of brown fat-like development. Irisin is induced with exercise in mice and humans, and mildly increased irisin levels in blood cause an increase in energy expenditure in mice with no changes in movement or food intake. This results in improvements in obesity and glucose homeostasis. Irisin could be a protein therapeutic for human metabolic disease and other disorders that are improved with exercise.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Medicine
                Nat Med
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                1078-8956
                1546-170X
                October 2013
                September 29 2013
                October 2013
                : 19
                : 10
                : 1252-1263
                10.1038/nm.3361
                24100998
                © 2013

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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