The browning of white adipose tissue: some burning issues

Cell Metab. 2014 Sep 2;20(3):396-407. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2014.07.005. Epub 2014 Aug 7.


Igniting thermogenesis within white adipose tissue (i.e., promoting expression and activity of the uncoupling protein UCP1) has attracted much interest. Numerous "browning agents" have now been described (gene ablations, transgenes, food components, drugs, environments, etc.). The implied action of browning agents is that they increase UCP1 through this heat production, leading to slimming. Here, we particularly point to the possibility that cause and effect may on occasion be the reverse: browning agents may disrupt, for example, the fur, leading to increased heat loss, increased thermogenic demand to counteract this heat loss, and thus, through sympathetic nervous system activation, to enhanced UCP1 expression in white (and brown) adipose tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology*
  • Adipose Tissue, White / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue, White / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / pharmacology
  • Food
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / genetics
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / drug effects
  • Thermogenesis
  • Thiazolidinediones / pharmacology
  • Uncoupling Protein 1


  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Ion Channels
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • UCP1 protein, human
  • Uncoupling Protein 1