A temperature-sensitive pathway that regulates the production of brown fat in mice is reported this week in Nature Cell Biology. These findings could provide new treatment avenues for obesity.
Brown fat consumes lipids and glucose to generate body heat in response to cold exposure or diet. Markus Stoffel and colleagues identify a signalling pathway that promotes the formation of mature brown fat cells in response to cold temperatures. They find that cold exposure decreases the production of the microRNA miR-133. As miR-133 negatively regulates production of Prdm16, a master regulator of brown fat development, these findings reveal how brown fat production is regulated by temperature.
Although brown fat accumulation is known to inversely correlate with obesity in mouse models, additional studies will be needed to determine whether this pathway can be exploited for therapeutic benefit in humans.