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FEBS Lett. 1999 Jan 15;442(2-3):167-72.

Role of sympathetic activity in controlling the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor in brown fat cells of lean and genetically obese rats.

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Centre for Study and Research on Obesity, Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, LITA Vialba, L. Sacco Hospital, Milan University, Italy.


The thermogenic activity of brown adipose tissue (BAT) is heavily dependent on high perfusion, through its dense vascular system. Angiogenesis must go hand-in-hand with BAT functions, but little is known about the factors controlling it. In the present study we demonstrate that: (a) vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is synthesised and released in brown adipocytes in culture; (b) VEGF mRNA isoforms and protein appear in dispersed mature brown adipocytes and whole tissue; (c) VEGF expression is increased in BAT from cold-exposed rats, and in cultured brown adipocytes exposed to noradrenaline and the beta3-adrenoceptor agonists; (e) BAT from genetically obese (falfa) rats exhibits reduced expression of VEGF as well as a change in the ratio of mRNA isoforms. It is concluded that sympathetic control of VEGF expression via noradrenaline acting on beta3-adrenoceptors plays a major role in developmental and adaptive angiogenesis, and defects in this contribute to the reduced thermogenic capacity of BAT in genetic obesity.

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