Brown adipose tissue activity controls triglyceride clearance

Nat Med. 2011 Feb;17(2):200-5. doi: 10.1038/nm.2297. Epub 2011 Jan 23.


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) burns fatty acids for heat production to defend the body against cold and has recently been shown to be present in humans. Triglyceride-rich lipoproteins (TRLs) transport lipids in the bloodstream, where the fatty acid moieties are liberated by the action of lipoprotein lipase (LPL). Peripheral organs such as muscle and adipose tissue take up the fatty acids, whereas the remaining cholesterol-rich remnant particles are cleared by the liver. Elevated plasma triglyceride concentrations and prolonged circulation of cholesterol-rich remnants, especially in diabetic dyslipidemia, are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. However, the precise biological role of BAT for TRL clearance remains unclear. Here we show that increased BAT activity induced by short-term cold exposure controls TRL metabolism in mice. Cold exposure drastically accelerated plasma clearance of triglycerides as a result of increased uptake into BAT, a process crucially dependent on local LPL activity and transmembrane receptor CD36. In pathophysiological settings, cold exposure corrected hyperlipidemia and improved deleterious effects of insulin resistance. In conclusion, BAT activity controls vascular lipoprotein homeostasis by inducing a metabolic program that boosts TRL turnover and channels lipids into BAT. Activation of BAT might be a therapeutic approach to reduce elevated triglyceride concentrations and combat obesity in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology
  • CD36 Antigens / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / physiology
  • Cold Temperature
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias / metabolism
  • Hyperlipidemias / physiopathology
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Lipoprotein Lipase / metabolism
  • Lipoproteins / metabolism
  • Lipoproteins / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Triglycerides / metabolism*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / physiology


  • CD36 Antigens
  • Lipoproteins
  • Triglycerides
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Cholesterol
  • Lipoprotein Lipase