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FASEB J. 1990 Aug;4(11):2890-8.

Brown adipose tissue thermogenesis: interdisciplinary studies.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


Energy expenditure for thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue (BAT) serves either to maintain body temperature in the cold or to waste food energy. It has roles in thermal balance and energy balance, and when defective, is usually associated with obesity. BAT can grow or atrophy; it is usually atrophied in obese animals. Control of BAT thermogenesis and growth is by the sympathetic nervous system, with integration of signals in the hypothalamus. Sensory nerves may also be involved. Understanding the control of growth and differentiation of BAT is important for discovering how to reactivate it is obesity. Studies on control of gene expression in BAT are concentrating on thermogenically important components such as the uncoupling protein (which allows BAT mitochondria to operate in a thermogenic uncoupled mode), lipoprotein lipase (which allows BAT to compete with white adipose tissue for dietary lipid), and thyroxine 5'-deiodinase (which allows endogenous triiodothyronine generation, part of the control of differentiation and growth of BAT). Differentiation of BAT cell precursors in culture has recently been achieved. BAT is present in adult humans and some anti-obesity drugs are targeted to stimulation of BAT thermogenesis. However, extrapolation to humans of results of studies of BAT requires the development of novel approaches to the noninvasive assessment of amount and function of human BAT.

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