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Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation

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Critical review of beige adipocyte thermogenic activation and contribution to whole-body energy expenditure

Érique Castro
  • Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of São Paulo, São Paulo 05508000, Brazil
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Tiago E. Oliveira Silva
  • Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of São Paulo, São Paulo 05508000, Brazil
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ William T. Festuccia
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of São Paulo, Av. Prof Lineu Prestes 1524, São Paulo 05508000, Brazil, Phone: +55 11 26488238, Fax: +55 11 30917285
  • Email
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Published Online: 2017-09-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/hmbci-2017-0042


Beige (or brite, “brown in white”) adipocytes are uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1)-positive cells residing in white adipose depots that, depending on the conditions, behave either as classic white adipocytes, storing energy as lipids, or as brown adipocytes, dissipating energy from oxidative metabolism as heat through non-shivering thermogenesis. Because of their thermogenic potential and, therefore, possible usage to treat metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, beige cells have attracted the attention of many scientists worldwide aiming to develop strategies to safely recruit and activate their thermogenic activity. Indeed, in recent years, a large variety of conditions, molecules (including nutrients) and signaling pathways were reported to promote the recruitment of beige adipocytes. Despite of those advances, the true contribution of beige adipocyte thermogenesis to whole-body energy expenditure is still not completely defined. Herein, we discuss some important aspects that should be considered when studying beige adipocyte biology and the contribution to energy balance and whole-body metabolism.

Keywords: beige adipocyte; browning; lipolysis; macrophages; sympathetic innervation; thermogenesis; UCP1


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About the article

Received: 2017-06-13

Accepted: 2017-07-17

Published Online: 2017-09-01

Author Statement

Research funding: This work was supported by grants from São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP #2015/19530-5) and National Counsel of Science and Technology Development (CNPq #443492/2014-0) to WTF. EC and TEO are recipients of FAPESP fellowships (#2016/23169-9 and 2016/07062-0, respectively).

Conflict of interest: The authors state no conflict of interest.

Informed consent: Informed consent is not applicable.

Ethical approval: The conducted research is not related to either human or animal use.

Citation Information: Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation, ISSN (Online) 1868-1891, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/hmbci-2017-0042.

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