Adrenergic pathway activation enhances brown adipose tissue metabolism: a [¹⁸F]FDG PET/CT study in mice

Nucl Med Biol. 2014 Jan;41(1):10-6. doi: 10.1016/j.nucmedbio.2013.08.009. Epub 2013 Oct 1.


Objective: Pharmacologic approaches to study brown adipocyte activation in vivo with a potential of being translational to humans are desired. The aim of this study was to examine pre- and postsynaptic targeting of adrenergic system for enhancing brown adipose tissue (BAT) metabolism quantifiable by [(18)F]fluoro-2-deoxyglucose ([(18)F]FDG) positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) in mice.

Methods: A β₃-adrenoreceptor selective agonist (CL 316243), an adenylyl cyclase enzyme activator (forskolin) and a potent blocker of presynaptic norepinephrine transporter (atomoxetine), were injected through the tail vein of Swiss Webster mice 30 minutes before intravenous (iv) administration of [(18)F]FDG. The mice were placed on the PET/CT bed for 30 min PET acquisition followed by 10 min CT acquisition for attenuation correction and anatomical delineation of PET images.

Results: Activated interscapular (IBAT), cervical, periaortic and intercostal BAT were observed in 3-dimentional analysis of [(18)F]FDG PET images. CL 316243 increased the total [(18)F]FDG standard uptake value (SUV) of IBAT 5-fold greater compared to that in placebo-treated mice. It also increased the [(18)F]FDG SUV of white adipose tissue (2.4-fold), and muscle (2.7-fold), as compared to the control. There was no significant difference in heart, brain, spleen and liver uptakes between groups. Forskolin increased [(18)F]FDG SUV of IBAT 1.9-fold greater than that in placebo-treated mice. It also increased the [(18)F]FDG SUV of white adipose tissue (2.2-fold) and heart (5.4-fold) compared to control. There was no significant difference in muscle, brain, spleen, and liver uptakes between groups. Atomoxetine increased [(18)F]FDG SUV of IBAT 1.7-fold greater than that in placebo-treated mice. There were no significant differences in all other organs compared to placebo-treated mice except liver (1.6 fold increase). A positive correlation between SUV levels of IBAT and CT Hounsfield unit (HU) (R(2)=0.55, p<0.001) and between CT HU levels of IBAT and liver (R(2)=0.69, p<0.006) was observed.

Conclusions: The three pharmacologic approaches reported here enhanced BAT metabolism by targeting different sites in adrenergic system as measured by [(18)F]FDG PET/CT.

Keywords: BAT; Brown fat; Diabetes; Molecular imaging; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / diagnostic imaging
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Adrenergic Agonists / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Multimodal Imaging*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Receptors, Adrenergic / metabolism*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*


  • Adrenergic Agonists
  • Receptors, Adrenergic
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18