Seasonal effects of UCP1 gene polymorphism on visceral fat accumulation in Japanese adults

PLoS One. 2013 Sep 25;8(9):e74720. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0074720. eCollection 2013.


Uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) and β3 adrenergic receptor (ADRB3) genes play central roles in the thermogenesis of brown adipose tissue (BAT) in adult humans. However, the importance of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in both genes during the development of obesity is controversial. Although active BAT in adult humans is frequently observed in the winter season, the effects of sampling season have not been taken into consideration in previous association studies. Here, we tested the associations of UCP1 -3826A/G and ADRB3 Trp64Arg with body mass index (BMI) and visceral fat area (VFA) in 3013 Japanese adults sampled during different seasons. Association between SNPs and the obesity-related traits were assessed using multiple linear regression models, including sex, age, physical activity, and genotypes. Both SNPs did not show significant associations in the models based on the entire cohort. However, in subsets comprising individuals mainly sampled from winter to spring, UCP1 showed significant associations with VFA (P = 0.0098) and VFA adjusted for BMI (P = 0.0128). Moreover, the effects of UCP1 on VFA were strongly negatively correlated with outdoor temperature (P = 0.00011), but not with night length (P = 0.039). ADRB3 did not show these associations, but an additive effect with UCP1 was observed for VFA adjusted for BMI (P = 0.0067). Subsets sampled in the hot season did not show significant associations for both SNPs. The season-specific effects of UCP1 on VFA were consistent with a previous finding that active BAT was more frequently found in winter than in summer, and supported the importance of cold stress in BAT activation and the significance of BAT in the development of obesity in adult humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group / genetics*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / metabolism*
  • Ion Channels / genetics*
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics*
  • Seasons*
  • Temperature
  • Uncoupling Protein 1


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

Grant support

This study was supported in part by KAKENHI Grant Number 23687036 from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.