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Exp Physiol. 2003 Jan;88(1):141-8.

Cold-induced recruitment of brown adipose tissue thermogenesis.

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Animal Physiology, Department of Biology, Philipps-University, Marburg, Germany.


Non-shivering thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue is the main mechanism for thermoregulatory heat production in small mammals and newborns. During cold acclimation the sympathetic innervation triggers the recruitment of brown adipose tissue by hyperplasia, which involves the proliferation and differentiation of precursor cells, and by hypertrophy of mature brown adipocytes. Mitochondrial biogenesis and increased synthesis of the uncoupling protein 1 (UCP-1) are hallmarks of the thermogenic recruitment process. The severalfold increase of mitochondrial protein content during cold acclimation recruits a large capacity for oxidative phosphorylation. However, UCP-1 increases proton leakage across the inner membrane of brown adipocyte mitochondria and thereby dissipates proton motive force as heat instead of ATP synthesis. During recent years considerable progress has been achieved in the analysis of transcriptional mechanisms controlling Ucp1 gene expression. However, so far only little is known about the molecular basis of cold-induced mitochondrial biogenesis in brown adipose tissue.

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