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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Feb 15;306(4):E363-72. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00119.2013. Epub 2013 Dec 17.

Role of bone morphogenetic protein 4 in the differentiation of brown fat-like adipocytes.

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Department of Endocrinoloy and Metabolism, Huashan Hospital, Medical College Fudan University, Shanghai, China.


There are two different types of fat present in mammals: white adipose tissue, the primary site of energy storage, and brown adipose tissue, which is specializes in energy expenditure. Factors that specify the developmental fate and function of brown fat are poorly understood. Bone morphogenic proteins (BMPs) play an important role in adipogenesis. While BMP4 is capable of triggering commitment of stem cells to the white adipocyte lineage, BMP7 triggers commitment of progenitor cells to a brown adipocyte lineage and activates brown adipogenesis. To investigate the differential effects of BMPs on the development of adipocytes, C3H10T1/2 pluripotent cells were pretreated with BMP4 and BMP7, followed by different adipogenic induction cocktails. Both BMP4 and BMP7 unexpectedly activated a full program of brown adipogenesis, including induction of the brown fat-defining marker uncoupling protein-1 (UCP1), increasing the expression of early regulators of brown fat fate PRDM16 (PR domain-containing 16) and induction of mitochondrial biogenesis and function. Implantation of BMP4-pretreated C3H10T1/2 cells into nude mice resulted in the development of adipose tissue depots containing UCP1-positive brown adipocytes. Interestingly, BMP4 could also induce brown fat-like adipocytes in both white and brown preadipocytes, thereby decreasing the classical brown adipocyte marker Zic1 and increasing the recently identified beige adipocyte marker TMEM26. The data indicate an important role for BMP4 in promoting brown adipocyte differentiation and thermogenesis in vivo and in vitro and offers a potentially new therapeutic approach for the treatment of obesity.


bone morphogenic protein-4; brown adipogenesis; brown fat-like adipocytes

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