Since the presence of brown adipose tissue (BAT) was confirmed in adult humans, BAT has become a therapeutic target for obesity and insulin resistance. We examined whether human subcutaneous white adipose tissue (sWAT) can adopt a BAT-like phenotype using a clinical model of prolonged and severe adrenergic stress. sWAT samples were collected from severely burned and healthy individuals. A subset of burn victims were prospectively followed during their acute hospitalization. Browning of sWAT was determined by the presence of multilocular adipocytes, uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), and increased mitochondrial density and respiratory capacity. Multilocular UCP1-positive adipocytes were found in sWAT samples from burn patients. UCP1 mRNA, mitochondrial density, and leak respiratory capacity in sWAT increased after burn trauma. Our data demonstrate that human sWAT can transform from an energy-storing to an energy-dissipating tissue, which opens new research avenues in our quest to prevent and treat obesity and its metabolic complications.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.