Uncoupling protein 1 expression in adipocytes derived from skeletal muscle fibro/adipogenic progenitors is under genetic and hormonal control

J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2018 Apr;9(2):384-399. doi: 10.1002/jcsm.12277. Epub 2018 Feb 5.


Background: Intramuscular fatty infiltration is generally associated with the accumulation of white adipocytes in skeletal muscle and unfavourable metabolic outcomes. It is, however, still unclear whether intramuscular adipocytes could also acquire a brown-like phenotype. Here, we detected intramuscular expression of brown adipocyte markers during fatty infiltration in an obesity-resistant mouse strain and extensively compared the potential of two different stem cell populations residing in skeletal muscle to differentiate into brown-like adipocytes.

Methods: Fatty infiltration was induced using intramuscular glycerol or cardiotoxin injection in the tibialis anterior muscles of young or aged 129S6/SvEvTac (Sv/129) mice or interleukin-6 (IL-6) knockout mice, and the expression of general and brown adipocyte markers was assessed after 4 weeks. Fibro/adipogenic progenitors (FAPs) and myogenic progenitors were prospectively isolated using fluorescence-activated cell sorting from skeletal muscle of male and female C57Bl6/6J and Sv/129 mice, and monoclonal and polyclonal cultures were treated with brown adipogenic medium. Additionally, FAPs were differentiated with medium supplemented or not with triiodothyronine.

Results: Although skeletal muscle expression of uncoupling protein 1 (Ucp1) was barely detectable in uninjected tibialis anterior muscle, it was drastically induced following intramuscular adipogenesis in Sv/129 mice and further increased in response to beta 3-adrenergic stimulation. Intramuscular Ucp1 expression did not depend on IL-6 and was preserved in aged skeletal muscle. Myogenic progenitors did not form adipocytes neither in polyclonal nor monoclonal cultures. Fibro/adipogenic progenitors, on the other hand, readily differentiated into brown-like, UCP1+ adipocytes. Uncoupling protein 1 expression in differentiated FAPs was regulated by genetic background, sex, and triiodothyronine treatment independently of adipogenic differentiation levels.

Conclusions: Intramuscular adipogenesis is associated with increased Ucp1 expression in skeletal muscle from obesity-resistant mice. Fibro/adipogenic progenitors provide a likely source for intramuscular adipocytes expressing UCP1 under control of both genetic and hormonal factors. Therefore, FAPs constitute a possible target for therapies aiming at the browning of intramuscular adipose tissue and the metabolic improvement of skeletal muscle affected by fatty infiltration.

Keywords: Aged muscle; Fibro/adipogenic progenitors; Interleukin 6; Intramuscular adipose tissue; Myogenic progenitors; Thyroid hormone; UCP1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / metabolism*


  • Uncoupling Protein 1