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Turning WAT Into BAT: A Review on Regulators Controlling the Browning of White Adipocytes


Turning WAT Into BAT: A Review on Regulators Controlling the Browning of White Adipocytes

Kinyui Alice Lo et al. Biosci Rep.


Adipose tissue has a central role in the regulation of energy balance and homoeostasis. There are two main types of adipose tissue: WAT (white adipose tissue) and BAT (brown adipose tissue). WAT from certain depots, in response to appropriate stimuli, can undergo a process known as browning where it takes on characteristics of BAT, notably the induction of UCP1 (uncoupling protein 1) expression and the presence of multilocular lipid droplets and multiple mitochondria. How browning is regulated is an intense topic of investigation as it has the potential to tilt the energy balance from storage to expenditure, a strategy that holds promise to combat the growing epidemic of obesity and metabolic syndrome. This review focuses on the transcriptional regulators as well as various proteins and secreted mediators that have been shown to play a role in browning. Emphasis is on describing how many of these factors exert their effects by regulating the three main transcriptional regulators of classical BAT development, namely PRDM16 (PR domain containing 16), PPARγ (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ) and PGC-1α (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator 1α), which have been shown to be the key nodes in the regulation of inducible brown fat.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Many different mediators exert their effects on browning through the three core browning transcriptional regulators
(A) The three core transcriptional regulators of inducible brown fat, namely PRDM16, PPARγ and PGC-1α, are shown as ovals. Other transcriptional regulators are represented in a plain text format. A pointed arrow represents activation, whereas a blunt arrow represents inhibition. See text for detailed explanation of the relationship among the different regulators. Browning involves the repression of white-fat genes (B) and the induction of brown-fat genes (C) Illustrated is how some of the above-mentioned regulators come together to bring about such effects.

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