Brown adipose tissue: from thermal physiology to bioenergetics
Brown adipose tissue is an organ in mammals specialized for the generation of heat. The tissue plays an important role in thermoregulatory heat production (nonshivering thermogenesis), and in nutritional energetics (through the process of diet-induced thermogenesis). Much of the current interest in brown adipose tissue has been catalysed by the postulate (1970’s) that a reduced capacity for thermogenesis underlies the development of obesity. Heat is generated in brown fat by a controlled uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation, a process regulated by a tissue-specific mitochondrial uncoupling protein,Mr 32–33,000. The immunological identification of uncoupling protein is now used as a biochemical criterion for distinguishing brown fat from white adipose tissue. The gene coding for uncoupling protein has been cloned in several species, and a number of factors regulating the expression of the gene, as well as the amount and activity of the protein itself, have been documented. In addition to its direct role in heat production, brown adipose tissue has some notable general metabolic properties, such as in the conversion of thyroxine to triiodothyronine. An overview of the biology of brown adipose tissue is presented in this article, with an emphasis on some recent developments.
Volume 45, 2020
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