Exosomal microRNA miR-92a concentration in serum reflects human brown fat activity

Nat Commun. 2016 Apr 27;7:11420. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11420.


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) dissipates energy and its activity correlates with leanness in human adults. (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose ((18)F-FDG) positron emission tomography coupled with computer tomography (PET/CT) is still the standard for measuring BAT activity, but exposes subjects to ionizing radiation. To study BAT function in large human cohorts, novel diagnostic tools are needed. Here we show that brown adipocytes release exosomes and that BAT activation increases exosome release. Profiling miRNAs in exosomes released from brown adipocytes, and in exosomes isolated from mouse serum, we show that levels of miRNAs change after BAT activation in vitro and in vivo. One of these exosomal miRNAs, miR-92a, is also present in human serum exosomes. Importantly, serum concentrations of exosomal miR-92a inversely correlate with human BAT activity measured by (18)F-FDG PET/CT in two unique and independent cohorts comprising 41 healthy individuals. Thus, exosomal miR-92a represents a potential serum biomarker for BAT activity in mice and humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • MIRN92 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Mirn92 microRNA, mouse