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Endocrinology. 1983 May;112(5):1662-6.

Development of brown adipose tissue thermogenesis in the ovine fetus and newborn.


Despite the importance of brown adipose tissue (BAT) in the regulation of thermogenesis and energy expenditure in both newborn and adult mammals, the functional ontogenesis of this tissue is largely unknown. In the present study, we describe the maturation of several aspects of BAT thermogenesis in fetal and newborn sheep. Cell respiration of brown adipocytes isolated from perirenal BAT was measured using a Gilson differential respirometer. Cells were isolated from four fetal animals at 121-124 days gestation (group 1), five fetal animals at 137-140 days gestation (group 2), and five newborns between birth and 4 days of age (group 3). In addition to basal oxygen consumption, in vitro cell respiration also was measured after the addition of norepinephrine (NE), (Bu)2cAMP, alpha-glycerophosphate (alpha GP), and butyric acid. Mean (+/- SEM) basal respiration (in microliters of O2 per 10(6) cells/h) increased from 11 +/- 1 in group 1 to 31 +/- 2 in group 2 and 45 +/- 7 in group 3. Cell volume increased from 9 +/- 1 pl in group 1 to 13 +/- 2 pl in group 2 and 18 +/- 2 pl in group 3. After adjustment for variations in basal respiration due to differences in cell volume, basal respiration in group 2 was greater than that in group 1 and equal to that in group 3. Maximal NE (10(-6) M)-stimulated respiration increased from 74 +/- 16 in group 1 to 294 +/- 47 in group 2. Maximal NE-stimulated respiration in group 3 (133 +/- 30) was less than that in group 2, but equal to that in group 1. (Bu)2cAMP-stimulated respiration increased from 51 +/- 12 in group 1 to 175 +/- 22 in group II, with no further increase in group III. Neither NE- nor (Bu)2cAMP-stimulated respiration varied significantly with cell volume. alpha GP substrate respiration demonstrated significant increases from group 1 to group 2, with another significant increase in Group 3. Butyric acid substrate respiration in group 1 was less than those measured in groups 2 and 3, while respiration values in groups 2 and 3 were equal. After adjustments for variations due to differences in cell volume, the patterns of development of both alpha GP and butyric acid substrate respiration were unaltered. The following conclusions were reached 1) Full maturation of BAT catecholamine-stimulated cellular respiration occurs before delivery near term in the ovine fetus. 2) In the neonatal lamb, a decrease in catecholamine-stimulated respiration occurs without a decrease in (Bu)2cAMP-stimulated respiration. This suggests that a decrease in BAT sensitivity to NE occurs after delivery at the receptor adenyl cyclase level. 3) The perinatal increase in alpha GP substrate respiration without an increase in butyric acid substrate respiration suggests that mitochondrial alpha-glycerophosphate dehydrogenase activity is increased. This was confirmed by measuring increased alpha-glycerophosphate dehydrogenase activity in crude BAT mitochondrial fractions in group 3 animals.

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