JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

The brain and brown fat

Cristina Contreras, Francisco Gonzalez, Johan Fernø, Carlos Diéguez, Kamal Rahmouni, Rubén Nogueiras, Miguel López
Annals of Medicine 2015, 47 (2): 150-68
24915455
Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is a specialized organ responsible for thermogenesis, a process required for maintaining body temperature. BAT is regulated by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which activates lipolysis and mitochondrial uncoupling in brown adipocytes. For many years, BAT was considered to be important only in small mammals and newborn humans, but recent data have shown that BAT is also functional in adult humans. On the basis of this evidence, extensive research has been focused on BAT function, where new molecules, such as irisin and bone morphogenetic proteins, particularly BMP7 and BMP8B, as well as novel central factors and new regulatory mechanisms, such as orexins and the canonical ventomedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (VMH) AMP- activated protein kinase (AMPK)-SNS-BAT axis, have been discovered and emerged as potential drug targets to combat obesity. In this review we provide an overview of the complex central regulation of BAT and how different neuronal cell populations co-ordinately work to maintain energy homeostasis.

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