Adipose tissue is usually laid down in small amounts in the foetus and is characterised as possessing small amounts of the brown adipose tissue-specific mitochondrial uncoupling protein (UCP)1. In adults, a primary factor determining the abundance and function of UCP1 is ambient temperature. Cold exposure causes activation and the rapid generation of heat through the free flow of protons across the mitochondria with no requirement to convert ADP to ATP. In rodents, housing at an ambient temperature below thermoneutrality promotes the appearance of beige like adipocytes. These arise as discrete regions of UCP1 containing cells in white fat depots. There is increasing evidence to show that to gain credible translational results on brown and beige fat function in rodent models that they should be housed at thermoneutrality. This not only reflects the type of environment in which humans spend a majority of their time, but is in accord with the rise of global temperature caused by industrialisation and the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels. There is now good evidence in adult humans, that stimulating brown fat can improve glucose homeostasis which can be achieved either by nutritional or pharmacological interventions. The challenge, therefore, is to establish credible developmental models in animals maintained at thermoneutrality which will elucidate the true impact of nutrition. The primary focus should fall specifically on the components of breast milk and how these modulate long term effects on brown or beige fat development and function.
Michael E Symonds, Mark Pope, Ian Bloor, James Law, Reham Alagal, and Helen Budge
Michael E Symonds, Peter Aldiss, Neele Dellschaft, James Law, Hernan P Fainberg, Mark Pope, Harold Sacks, and Helen Budge
Although brown adipose tissue (BAT) is one of the smallest organs in the body, it has the potential to have a substantial impact on both heat production as well as fat and carbohydrate metabolism. This is most apparent at birth, which is characterised with the rapid appearance and activation of the BAT specific mitochondrial uncoupling protein (UCP)1 in many large mammals. The amount of brown fat then gradually declines with age, an adaptation that can be modulated by the thermal environment. Given the increased incidence of maternal obesity and its potential transmission to the mother’s offspring, increasing BAT activity in the mother could be one mechanism to prevent this cycle. To date, however, all rodent studies investigating maternal obesity have been conducted at standard laboratory temperature (21°C), which represents an appreciable cold challenge. This could also explain why offspring weight is rarely increased, suggesting that future studies would benefit from being conducted at thermoneutrality (~28°C). It is also becoming apparent that each fat depot has a unique transcriptome and show different developmental pattern, which is not readily apparent macroscopically. These differences could contribute to the retention of UCP1 within the supraclavicular fat depot, the most active depot in adult humans, increasing heat production following a meal. Despite the rapid increase in publications on BAT over the past decade, the extent to which modifications in diet and/or environment can be utilised to promote its activity in the mother and/or her offspring remains to be established.