Adaptive thermogenesis and thermal conductance in wild-type and UCP1-KO mice

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2010 Nov;299(5):R1396-406. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00021.2009. Epub 2010 Sep 8.


We compared maximal cold-induced heat production (HPmax) and cold limits between warm (WA; 27°C), moderate cold (MCA; 18°C), or cold acclimated (CA; 5°C) wild-type and uncoupling-protein 1 knockout (UCP1-KO) mice. In wild-type mice, HPmax was successively increased after MCA and CA, and the cold limit was lowered to -8.3°C and -18.0°C, respectively. UCP1-KO mice also increased HPmax in response to MCA and CA, although to a lesser extent. Direct comparison revealed a maximal cold-induced recruitment of heat production by +473 mW and +227 mW in wild-type and UCP1-KO mice, respectively. The increase in cold tolerance of UCP1-KO mice from -0.9°C in MCA to -10.1°C in CA could not be directly related to changes in HPmax, indicating that UCP1-KO mice used the dissipated heat more efficiently than wild-type mice. As judged from respiratory quotients, acutely cold-challenged UCP1-KO mice showed a delayed transition toward lipid oxidation, and 5-h cold exposure revealed diminished physical activity and less variability in the control of metabolic rate. We conclude that BAT is required for maximal adaptive thermogenesis but also allows metabolic flexibility and a rapid switch toward sustained lipid-fuelled thermogenesis as an acute response to cold. In both CA groups, expression of contractile proteins (myosin heavy-chain isoforms) showed minor training effects in skeletal muscles, while cardiac muscle of UCP1-KO mice had novel expression of beta cardiac isoform. Neither respiration nor basal proton conductance of skeletal muscle mitochondria were different between genotypes. In subcutaneous white adipose tissue of UCP1-KO mice, cold exposure increased cytochrome-c oxidase activity and expression of the cell death-inducing DFFA-like effector A by 3.6-fold and 15-fold, respectively, indicating the recruitment of mitochondria-rich brown adipocyte-like cells. Absence of functional BAT leads to remodeling of white adipose tissue, which may significantly contribute to adaptive thermogenesis during cold acclimation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • Ion Channels / deficiency*
  • Ion Channels / genetics
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / deficiency*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Myosin Heavy Chains / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Subcutaneous Fat / metabolism*
  • Thermal Conductivity
  • Thermogenesis*
  • Thermosensing*
  • Time Factors
  • Uncoupling Protein 1


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Cidea protein, mouse
  • Ion Channels
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Ucp1 protein, mouse
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Electron Transport Complex IV
  • Myosin Heavy Chains