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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Mar;1801(3):372-6. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2009.09.008. Epub 2009 Sep 24.

Recruitment of brown fat and conversion of white into brown adipocytes: strategies to fight the metabolic complications of obesity?

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  • 1Inserm U858, Laboratoire de recherches sur les obésités, Toulouse, F-31432, France.


The role of white and brown adipose tissues in energy metabolism is well established. However, the existence of brown fat in adult humans was until very recently a matter of debate, and the molecular mechanisms underlying brown adipocyte development remained largely unknown. In 2009, several studies brought direct evidence for functional brown adipose tissue in adults. New factors involved in brown fat cell differentiation have been identified. Moreover, work on the origin of fat cells took an unexpected path with the recognition of different populations of brown fat cell precursors according to the anatomical location of the fat depots: a precursor common to skeletal muscle cells and brown adipocytes from brown fat depots, and a progenitor cell common to white adipocytes and brown adipocytes that appear in certain conditions in white fat depots. There is also mounting evidence that mature white adipocytes, including human fat cells, can be converted into brown fat-like adipocytes, and that the typical fatty acid storage phenotype of white adipocyte can be altered towards a fat utilization phenotype. These data open up new opportunities for the development of drugs for obesity and its metabolic and cardiovascular complications.

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