Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is a specialized thermoregulatory organ that has a critical role in the regulation of energy metabolism. Specifically, energy expenditure can be enhanced by the activation of BAT function and the induction of a BAT-like catabolic phenotype in white adipose tissue (WAT). Since the recent recognition of metabolically active BAT in adult humans, BAT has been extensively studied as one of the most promising targets identified for treating obesity and its related disorders. In this review, we summarize information on the developmental origin of BAT and the progenitors of brown adipocytes in WAT. We explore the transcriptional control of brown adipocyte differentiation during classical BAT development and in WAT browning. We also discuss the neuronal control of BAT activity and summarize the recently identified non-canonical stimulators of BAT that can act independently of β-adrenergic stimulation. Finally, we review new findings on the beneficial effects of BAT activation and development with respect to improving metabolic profiles. We highlight the therapeutic potential of BAT and its future prospects, including pharmacological intervention and cell-based therapies designed to enhance BAT activity and development. Experimental & Molecular Medicine (2014) 46, e78; doi:10.1038/emm.2013.163; published online 21 February 2014.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Medicine
- Molecular Biology
- Clinical Biochemistry