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Hypothalamus and thermogenesis: Heating the BAT, browning the WAT

Contreras, Cristina, Nogueiras, Rubén, Diéguez, Carlos, Medina-Gómez, Gema, López, Miguel
Molecular and cellular endocrinology 2016 v.438 pp. 107-115
AMP-activated protein kinase, adipocytes, body temperature, brown adipose tissue, energy, genes, heat production, homeostasis, humans, hypothalamus, metabolic diseases, mice, nerve tissue, obesity, therapeutics, thermoregulation, white adipose tissue
Brown adipose tissue (BAT) has been also considered as the main thermogenic organ responsible of maintenance body temperature through heat production. However, a new type of thermogenic fat has been characterized during the last years, the beige or brite fat, that is developed from white adipose tissue (WAT) in response to different stimuli by a process known as browning. The activities of brown and beige adipocytes ameliorate metabolic disease, including obesity in mice and correlate with leanness in humans. Many genes and pathways that regulate brown and beige adipocyte biology have now been identified, providing a variety of promising therapeutic targets for metabolic disease. The hypothalamus is the main central place orchestrating the outflow signals that drive the sympathetic nerve activity to BAT and WAT, controlling heat production and energy homeostasis. Recent data have revealed new hypothalamic molecular mechanisms, such as hypothalamic AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), that control both thermogenesis and browning. This review provides an overview of the factors influencing BAT and WAT thermogenesis, with special focus on the integration of peripheral information on hypothalamic circuits controlling thermoregulation.