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J Mol Cell Biol. 2017 Oct 1;9(5):364-375. doi: 10.1093/jmcb/mjx018.

Cold adaptation in pigs depends on UCP3 in beige adipocytes.

Lin J1,2, Cao C3, Tao C4, Ye R1,2, Dong M1,2, Zheng Q2,3, Wang C4, Jiang X1,2, Qin G3, Yan C5, Li K4, Speakman JR6, Wang Y4, Jin W1,7, Zhao J3,7.

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Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
College of Life Science, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
State Key Laboratory of Animal Nutrition, Institute of Animal Science, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China.
Department of Animal Science, Yanbian University, Yanji, China.
State Key Laboratory of Molecular Developmental Biology, Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
Savaid Medical School, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.


Pigs lack functional uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) making them susceptible to cold. Nevertheless, several pig breeds are known to be cold resistant. The molecular mechanism(s) enabling such adaptation are currently unknown. Here, we show that this resistance is not dependent on shivering, but rather depends on UCP3 and white adipose tissue (WAT) browning. In two cold-resistant breeds (Tibetan and Min), but not a cold-sensitive breed (Bama), WAT browning was induced after cold exposure. Beige adipocytes from Tibetan pigs exhibited greater oxidative capacity than those from Bama pigs. Notably, UCP3 expression was significantly increased only in cold-resistant breeds, and knockdown of UCP3 expression in Tibetan adipocytes phenocopied Bama adipocytes in culture. Moreover, the eight dominant pig breeds found across China can be classified into cold-sensitive and cold-resistant breeds based on the UCP3 cDNA sequence. This study indicates that UCP3 has contributed to the evolution of cold resistance in the pig and overturns the orthodoxy that UCP1 is the only thermogenic uncoupling protein.


Tibetan pig; beige adipocyte; brown adipose tissue; cold resistant; thermogenesis

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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