Moderate alcohol intake induces thermogenic brown/beige adipocyte formation via elevating retinoic acid signaling

FASEB J. 2017 Oct;31(10):4612-4622. doi: 10.1096/fj.201700396R. Epub 2017 Jul 5.


Clinically, low and moderate alcohol intake improves human health with protection against metabolic syndromes, including type 2 diabetes; however, mechanisms that are associated with these effects remain to be elucidated. The aims of this study were to investigate the effects of moderate alcohol intake on thermogenic brown/beige adipocyte formation and glucose and lipid homeostasis, as well as the involvement of retinoic acid (RA) signaling in the entire process. C57BL6 male mice were supplemented with 8% (w/v) alcohol in water for 1 or 4 mo. Alcohol intake prevented body weight gain, induced the formation of uncoupling protein 1-positive beige adipocytes in white adipose tissue, and increased thermogenesis in mice, which is associated with decreased serum glucose and triacylglycerol levels. Mechanistically, alcohol intake increased RA levels in serum and adipose tissue, which was associated with increased expression of aldehyde dehydrogenase family 1 subfamily A1 (Aldh1a1). When RA receptor-α signaling was conditionally blocked in platelet-derived growth factor receptor-α-positive adipose progenitors, the effects of alcohol on beige adipogenesis were largely abolished. Finally, moderate alcohol prevented high-fat diet-induced obesity and metabolic dysfunction. In conclusion, moderate alcohol intake induces thermogenic brown/beige adipocyte formation and promotes glucose and lipid oxidation via elevation of RA signaling.-Wang, B., Wang, Z., de Avila, J. M., Zhu, M.-J., Zhang, F., Gomez, N. A., Zhao, L., Tian, Q., Zhao, J., Maricelli, J., Zhang, H., Rodgers, B. D., Du, M. Moderate alcohol intake induces thermogenic brown/beige adipocyte formation via elevating retinoic acid signaling.

Keywords: beige adipocyte; fatty acids; glucose; obesity; thermogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes, Beige / drug effects*
  • Adipocytes, Beige / metabolism
  • Adipogenesis
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / drug effects*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue, White / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism
  • Alcohols / pharmacology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Thermogenesis / drug effects*
  • Tretinoin / metabolism


  • Alcohols
  • Ion Channels
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Tretinoin