A dramatic accumulation of glycogen in the brown adipose tissue of rats following recovery from cold exposure

Arch Biochem Biophys. 1999 May 1;365(1):54-61. doi: 10.1006/abbi.1999.1157.


In a morphological study of brown adipose tissue (BAT) of rats returned after exposure to cold (+5 degrees C) to neutral temperature (+25 degrees C), striking periodic acid Schiff staining was observed, indicating substantial glycogen accumulation. Enzymatic analysis revealed that the glycogen content increased from the 4.05 +/- 0.51 (micromol glucose unit per gram of tissue, mean +/- SE) control value to 57.3 +/- 9.66 when the animals were returned to neutral temperature for 24 h after a 1-week cold period. Glycogen repletion was also observed in liver and skeletal muscle; however, the glycogen levels in these tissues never exceeded the control values. The accumulation of glycogen in the BAT started by the 3rd hour of replacement and peaked by the 24th hour. This glycogen was readily utilized during the next short cold exposure of the animals. The plasma leptin concentration was reduced at the cold temperature. The hexokinase II activity in the BAT increased to 29.3 +/- 1.46 vs the 11.8 +/- 1.06 control (mU/mg protein +/- SE) after a 1-week cold exposure and this level was maintained during the return to neutral temperature. The total glycogen synthetase (GStot) and the glycogen synthetase a activity also increased after a 1-week cold exposure and increased further during the replacement. The level of GStot reached 26.9 +/- 1.39 vs 9.54 +/- 1.43 control by the 24th hour of replacement. At the same time, the glycogen phosphorylase a activity declined during the replacement. The concentration of glucose 6-phosphate (an activator of GS) decreased in the cold but returned to normal during the replacement. These changes in the BAT are in favor of glycogen synthesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / enzymology
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood
  • Glucose / analysis
  • Glycogen / biosynthesis*
  • Glycogen Synthase / analysis
  • Hexokinase / analysis
  • Insulin / blood
  • Leptin
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Proteins / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Rewarming*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • Proteins
  • Glycogen
  • Glycogen Synthase
  • Hexokinase
  • Glucose