The brown fat secretome: metabolic functions beyond thermogenesis

Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2015 May;26(5):231-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tem.2015.03.002. Epub 2015 Apr 2.


Brown fat is highly active in fuel oxidation and dissipates chemical energy through uncoupling protein (UCP)1-mediated heat production. Activation of brown fat leads to increased energy expenditure, reduced adiposity, and lower plasma glucose and lipid levels, thus contributing to better homeostasis. Uncoupled respiration and thermogenesis have been considered to be responsible for the metabolic benefits of brown adipose tissue. Recent studies have demonstrated that brown adipocytes also secrete factors that act locally and systemically to influence fuel and energy metabolism. This review discusses the evidence supporting a thermogenesis-independent role of brown fat, particularly through its release of secreted factors, and their implications in physiology and therapeutic development.

Keywords: brown adipose tissue; brown fat; crosstalk; energy balance; metabolic disease; secreted protein; secretome; thermogenesis; white adipose tissue; white fat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes, Brown / metabolism
  • Adiponectin / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / innervation
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / physiology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / physiology
  • Nerve Growth Factor / physiology
  • Neuregulins / physiology
  • Obesity
  • Thermogenesis*
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / physiology


  • Adiponectin
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • FGF12 protein, human
  • Ion Channels
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Neuregulins
  • UCP1 protein, human
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • neuregulin-4
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors
  • Nerve Growth Factor