Mfn2 is critical for brown adipose tissue thermogenic function

EMBO J. 2017 Jun 1;36(11):1543-1558. doi: 10.15252/embj.201694914. Epub 2017 Mar 27.


Mitochondrial fusion and fission events, collectively known as mitochondrial dynamics, act as quality control mechanisms to ensure mitochondrial function and fine-tune cellular bioenergetics. Defective mitofusin 2 (Mfn2) expression and enhanced mitochondrial fission in skeletal muscle are hallmarks of insulin-resistant states. Interestingly, Mfn2 is highly expressed in brown adipose tissue (BAT), yet its role remains unexplored. Using adipose-specific Mfn2 knockout (Mfn2-adKO) mice, we demonstrate that Mfn2, but not Mfn1, deficiency in BAT leads to a profound BAT dysfunction, associated with impaired respiratory capacity and a blunted response to adrenergic stimuli. Importantly, Mfn2 directly interacts with perilipin 1, facilitating the interaction between the mitochondria and the lipid droplet in response to adrenergic stimulation. Surprisingly, Mfn2-adKO mice were protected from high-fat diet-induced insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis. Altogether, these results demonstrate that Mfn2 is a mediator of mitochondria to lipid droplet interactions, influencing lipolytic processes and whole-body energy homeostasis.

Keywords: brown adipose tissue; insulin resistance; lipid droplet; mitochondrial dynamics; mitofusin 2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / deficiency
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Perilipin-1 / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Thermogenesis*


  • Perilipin-1
  • Plin1 protein, mouse
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases
  • Mfn2 protein, mouse