A Thermogenic-Like Brown Adipose Tissue Phenotype Is Dispensable for Enhanced Glucose Tolerance in Female Mice

Diabetes. 2019 Sep;68(9):1717-1729. doi: 10.2337/db18-1070. Epub 2019 Mar 12.


The prevailing dogma is that thermogenic brown adipose tissue (BAT) contributes to improvements in glucose homeostasis in obesogenic animal models, though much of the evidence supporting this premise is from thermostressed rodents. Determination of whether modulation of the BAT morphology/function drives changes in glucoregulation at thermoneutrality requires further investigation. We used loss- and gain-of-function approaches including genetic manipulation of the lipolytic enzyme Pnpla2, change in environmental temperature, and lifestyle interventions to comprehensively test the premise that a thermogenic-like BAT phenotype is coupled with enhanced glucose tolerance in female mice. In contrast to this hypothesis, we found that 1) compared to mice living at thermoneutrality, enhanced activation of BAT and its thermogenic phenotype via chronic mild cold stress does not improve glucose tolerance in obese mice, 2) silencing of the Pnpla2 in interscapular BAT causes a brown-to-white phenotypic shift accompanied with inflammation but does not disrupt glucose tolerance in lean mice, and 3) exercise and low-fat diet improve glucose tolerance in obese mice but these effects do not track with a thermogenic BAT phenotype. Collectively, these findings indicate that a thermogenic-like BAT phenotype is not linked to heightened glucose tolerance in female mice.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cold Temperature
  • Cold-Shock Response / physiology*
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Lipase / genetics
  • Lipase / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Phenotype
  • Thermogenesis / physiology*


  • Lipase
  • PNPLA2 protein, mouse