The adipose organ of obesity-prone C57BL/6J mice is composed of mixed white and brown adipocytes

J Lipid Res. 2012 Apr;53(4):619-29. doi: 10.1194/jlr.M018846. Epub 2012 Jan 23.


White and brown adipocytes are believed to occupy different sites in the body. We studied the anatomical features and quantitative histology of the fat depots in obesity and type 2 diabetes-prone C57BL/6J mice acclimated to warm or cold temperatures. Most of the fat tissue was contained in depots with discrete anatomical features, and most depots contained both white and brown adipocytes. Quantitative analysis showed that cold acclimation induced an increase in brown adipocytes and an almost equal reduction in white adipocytes; however, there were no significant differences in total adipocyte count or any signs of apoptosis or mitosis, in line with the hypothesis of the direct transformation of white into brown adipocytes. The brown adipocyte increase was accompanied by enhanced density of noradrenergic parenchymal nerve fibers, with a significant correlation between the density of these fibers and the number of brown adipocytes. Comparison with data from obesity-resistant Sv129 mice disclosed a significantly different brown adipocyte content in C57BL/6J mice, suggesting that this feature could underpin the propensity of the latter strain to develop obesity. However, the greater C57BL/6J browning capacity can hopefully be harnessed to curb obesity and type 2 diabetes in patients with constitutively low amounts of brown adipose tissue.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization
  • Adipocytes, Brown / pathology*
  • Adipocytes, White / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Transdifferentiation
  • Cold Temperature
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Fibers / pathology
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Subcutaneous Fat / pathology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / pathology*