The Gut Microbiota Metabolite Succinate Promotes Adipose Tissue Browning in Crohn's Disease

J Crohns Colitis. 2022 Nov 1;16(10):1571-1583. doi: 10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjac069.


Background and aims: Crohn's disease [CD] is associated with complex microbe-host interactions, involving changes in microbial communities, and gut barrier defects, leading to the translocation of microorganisms to surrounding adipose tissue [AT]. We evaluated the presence of beige AT depots in CD and questioned whether succinate and/or bacterial translocation promotes white-to-beige transition in adipocytes.

Methods: Visceral [VAT] and subcutaneous [SAT] AT biopsies, serum and plasma were obtained from patients with active [n = 21] or inactive [n = 12] CD, and from healthy controls [n = 15]. Adipose-derived stem cells [ASCs] and AT macrophages [ATMs] were isolated from VAT biopsies.

Results: Plasma succinate levels were significantly higher in patients with active CD than in controls and were intermediate in those with inactive disease. Plasma succinate correlated with the inflammatory marker high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. Expression of the succinate receptor SUCNR1 was higher in VAT, ASCs and ATMs from the active CD group than from the inactive or control groups. Succinate treatment of ASCs elevated the expression of several beige AT markers from controls and from patients with inactive disease, including uncoupling protein-1 [UCP1]. Notably, beige AT markers were prominent in ASCs from patients with active CD. Secretome profiling revealed that ASCs from patients with active disease secrete beige AT-related proteins, and co-culture assays showed that bacteria also trigger the white-to-beige switch of ASCs from patients with CD. Finally, AT depots from patients with CD exhibited a conversion from white to beige AT together with high UCP1 expression, which was corroborated by in situ thermal imaging analysis.

Conclusions: Succinate and bacteria trigger white-to-beige AT transition in CD. Understanding the role of beige AT in CD might aid in the development of therapeutic or diagnostic interventions.

Keywords: SUCNR1; Succinic acid; bacteria translocation; beige adipose tissue; creeping fat.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism
  • Crohn Disease* / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Succinic Acid / metabolism
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / metabolism


  • Succinic Acid
  • Uncoupling Protein 1