Cold-induced recruitment of brown adipose tissue thermogenesis

Exp Physiol. 2003 Jan;88(1):141-8. doi: 10.1113/eph8802508.


Non-shivering thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue is the main mechanism for thermoregulatory heat production in small mammals and newborns. During cold acclimation the sympathetic innervation triggers the recruitment of brown adipose tissue by hyperplasia, which involves the proliferation and differentiation of precursor cells, and by hypertrophy of mature brown adipocytes. Mitochondrial biogenesis and increased synthesis of the uncoupling protein 1 (UCP-1) are hallmarks of the thermogenic recruitment process. The severalfold increase of mitochondrial protein content during cold acclimation recruits a large capacity for oxidative phosphorylation. However, UCP-1 increases proton leakage across the inner membrane of brown adipocyte mitochondria and thereby dissipates proton motive force as heat instead of ATP synthesis. During recent years considerable progress has been achieved in the analysis of transcriptional mechanisms controlling Ucp1 gene expression. However, so far only little is known about the molecular basis of cold-induced mitochondrial biogenesis in brown adipose tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Adipose Tissue / radiation effects
  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology*
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Homeostasis / genetics
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Mitochondria / radiation effects
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Thermogenesis / physiology*
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology
  • Uncoupling Protein 1


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Ion Channels
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • UCP1 protein, human
  • Uncoupling Protein 1