Inducible brown adipogenesis of supraclavicular fat in adult humans

Endocrinology. 2011 Oct;152(10):3597-602. doi: 10.1210/en.2011-1349. Epub 2011 Jul 26.


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) plays key roles in thermogenesis and energy homeostasis in rodents. Metabolic imaging using positron emission tomography (PET)-computer tomography has identified significant depots of BAT in the supraclavicular fossa of adult humans. Whether supraclavicular fat contains precursor brown adipocytes is unknown. The aim of the present study was to determine the adipogenic potential of precursor cells in human supraclavicular fat. We obtained fat biopsies from the supraclavicular fossa of six individuals, as guided by PET-computer tomography, with paired sc fat biopsies as negative controls. Each piece of fat tissue was divided and processed for histology, gene analysis, and primary culture. Cells were examined for morphological changes in culture and harvested for RNA and protein upon full differentiation for analysis of UCP1 level. Histological/molecular analysis of supraclavicular fat revealed higher abundance of BAT in PET-positive than PET-negative individuals. In all subjects, fibroblast-like cells isolated from supraclavicular fat differentiated in vitro and uniformly into adipocytes containing multilobulated lipid droplets, expressing high level of UCP1. The total duration required from inoculation to emergence of fibroblast-like cells was 32-34 and 40-42 d for PET-positive- and PET-negative-derived samples, respectively, whereas the time required to achieve full differentiation was 7 d, regardless of PET status. Precursor cells from sc fat failed to proliferate or express UCP1. In summary, preadipocytes isolated from supraclavicular fat are capable of differentiating into brown adipocytes in vitro, regardless of PET status. This study provides the first evidence of inducible brown adipogenesis in the supraclavicular region in adult humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes, Brown / chemistry
  • Adipocytes, Brown / cytology*
  • Adipogenesis*
  • Adult
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / analysis
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / analysis
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Uncoupling Protein 1


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