Thyroid-Hormone-Induced Browning of White Adipose Tissue Does Not Contribute to Thermogenesis and Glucose Consumption

Cell Rep. 2019 Jun 11;27(11):3385-3400.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.05.054.


Regulation of body temperature critically depends on thyroid hormone (TH). Recent studies revealed that TH induces browning of white adipose tissue, possibly contributing to the observed hyperthermia in hyperthyroid patients and potentially providing metabolic benefits. Here, we show that browning by TH requires TH-receptor β and occurs independently of the sympathetic nervous system. The beige fat, however, lacks sufficient adrenergic stimulation and is not metabolically activated despite high levels of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1). Studies at different environmental temperatures reveal that TH instead causes hyperthermia by actions in skeletal muscle combined with a central body temperature set-point elevation. Consequently, the metabolic and thermogenic effects of systemic hyperthyroidism were maintained in UCP1 knockout mice, demonstrating that neither beige nor brown fat contributes to the TH-induced hyperthermia and elevated glucose consumption, and underlining that the mere presence of UCP1 is insufficient to draw conclusions on the therapeutic potential of browning agents.

Keywords: beige adipose tissue; beta3-adrenergic receptor; body temperature; brown adipose tissue; glucose tolerance; hyperthermia; metabolism; norepinephrine; pyrexia; sympathetic nervous system; thyroid hormone receptor; uncoupling protein 1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Beige / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue, Beige / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue, White / physiology
  • Animals
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-3 / metabolism
  • Thermogenesis*
  • Thyroid Hormones / metabolism*
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / genetics
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / metabolism


  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-3
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Ucp1 protein, mouse
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • Glucose