Background: There is a growing interest in exploiting the induction of beige or "brite" (brown in white) adipocytes (beigeing) to combat obesity and its comorbidities. However, there is some uncertainty regarding the best markers to evaluate the occurrence or magnitude of beigeing in white adipose tissue in the mouse model.
Methods: We evaluated the transcript expression of several thermoregulatory genes and proposed beige markers employing cell culture, whole white adipose tissue, and the adipocyte and stromal vascular fractions.
Results: Most beige markers tested with the exception of TMEM26 can discriminate white from beige adipocytes in culture. Markers FGF21, P2RX5, PAT2, or CAR4 can successfully mark beigeing in whole tissue of younger mice, or in the adipocyte subfraction of older mice. However, markers for the thermoregulatory genes UCP1, CIDEA, and Cox8b displayed the greatest dynamic range and were consistently elevated in vitro, in vivo, and in the adipocyte fraction by treatments that induce beige adipogenesis.
Conclusions: While most putative beige markers are clearly expressed in beige adipocytes in vitro, in vivo the small dynamic range of most of these markers, the strength of the beigeing stimulus, and the age of the mice may limit their utility, although this limitation may be overcome by specifically evaluating these markers in the adipocyte fraction. Thermoregulatory markers like UCP1, CIDEA, or Cox8b represent the best options to evaluate the beigeing of white adipose tissue in vivo.
Keywords: Adipocyte marker; Beige; Brite; FGF21; Subcutaneous adipose tissue; UCP1.