Adaptive Thermogenesis in Mice Is Enhanced by Opsin 3-Dependent Adipocyte Light Sensing

Cell Rep. 2020 Jan 21;30(3):672-686.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.12.043.


Almost all life forms can detect and decode light information for adaptive advantage. Examples include the visual system, in which photoreceptor signals are processed into virtual images, and the circadian system, in which light entrains a physiological clock. Here we describe a light response pathway in mice that employs encephalopsin (OPN3, a 480 nm, blue-light-responsive opsin) to regulate the function of adipocytes. Germline null and adipocyte-specific conditional null mice show a light- and Opn3-dependent deficit in thermogenesis and become hypothermic upon cold exposure. We show that stimulating mouse adipocytes with blue light enhances the lipolysis response and, in particular, phosphorylation of hormone-sensitive lipase. This response is Opn3 dependent. These data establish a key mechanism in which light-dependent, local regulation of the lipolysis response in white adipocytes regulates energy metabolism.

Keywords: OPN3; adipocyte; encephalopsin; light; lipolysis; metabolism; mitochondria; opsin; thermogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes, Brown / metabolism*
  • Adipocytes, Brown / radiation effects*
  • Adipocytes, White / metabolism*
  • Adipocytes, White / radiation effects*
  • Animals
  • Cold Temperature
  • Energy Metabolism / radiation effects
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Light*
  • Lipolysis / radiation effects
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Phenotype
  • Photons
  • Rod Opsins / metabolism*
  • Thermogenesis / genetics
  • Thermogenesis / radiation effects*


  • OPN3 protein, mouse
  • Rod Opsins