In response to cold exposure, placental mammals maintain body temperature by increasing sympathetic nerve activity in brown adipose tissue (BAT). Triggering of β-adrenergic receptors on brown adipocytes stimulates thermogenesis via induction of the cAMP/PKA pathway. Although cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) and its coactivators-the cAMP-regulated transcriptional coactivators (CRTCs)-mediate transcriptional effects of cAMP in most tissues, other transcription factors such as ATF2 appear critical for induction of thermogenic genes by cAMP in BAT. Brown adipocytes arise from Myf5-positive mesenchymal cells under the control of PRDM16, a coactivator that concurrently represses differentiation along the skeletal muscle lineage. Here, we show that the CREB coactivator CRTC3 is part of an inhibitory feedback pathway that antagonizes PRDM16-dependent differentiation. Mice with a knockout of CRTC3 in BAT (BKO) have increased cold tolerance and reduced adiposity, whereas mice overexpressing constitutively active CRTC3 in adipose tissue are more cold sensitive and have greater fat mass. CRTC3 reduced sympathetic nerve activity in BAT by up-regulating the expression of miR-206, a microRNA that promotes differentiation along the myogenic lineage and that we show here decreases the expression of VEGFA and neurotrophins critical for BAT innervation and vascularization. Sympathetic nerve activity to BAT was enhanced in BKO mice, leading to increases in catecholamine signaling that stimulated energy expenditure. As reexpression of miR-206 in BAT from BKO mice reversed the salutary effects of CRTC3 depletion on cold tolerance, our studies suggest that small-molecule inhibitors against this coactivator may provide therapeutic benefit to overweight individuals.
Keywords: BAT; CREB; CRTC3; thermogenesis.