New insights into the secretory functions of brown adipose tissue

Joan Villarroya, Rubén Cereijo, Aleix Gavaldà-Navarro, Marion Peyrou, Marta Giralt, Francesc Villarroya
Journal of Endocrinology 2019 August 1
In recent years, an important secretory role of brown adipose tissue (BAT) has emerged, which is consistent, to some extent, with the earlier recognition of the important secretory role of white fat. The so-called brown adipokines or "batokines" may play an autocrine role, which may either be positive or negative in the thermogenic function of brown adipocytes. Additionally, there is a growing recognition of the signalling molecules released by brown adipocytes that target sympathetic nerve endings (such as neuregulin-4 and S100b protein), vascular cells (e.g., bone morphogenetic protein-8b), and immune cells (e.g., C-X-C motif chemokine ligand-14) to promote the tissue remodelling associated with the adaptive BAT recruitment in response to thermogenic stimuli. Moreover, existing indications of an endocrine role of BAT are being confirmed through the release of brown adipokines acting on other distant tissues and organs; a recent example is the recognition that BAT-secreted fibroblast growth factor-21 and myostatin target the heart and skeletal muscle, respectively. The application of proteomics technologies is aiding the identification of new members of the brown adipocyte secretome, such as the extracellular matrix or complement system components. In summary, BAT can no longer be considered a mere producer of heat in response to environment or dietary challenges; it is also an active secretory tissue releasing brown adipokines with a relevant local and systemic action. The identification of the major brown adipokines and their roles is highly important for the discovery of novel candidates useful in formulating intervention strategies for metabolic diseases.

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