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Role of the autonomic nervous system in activation of human brown adipose tissue: A review of the literature



Role of the autonomic nervous system in activation of human brown adipose tissue: A review of the literature



Diabetes and Metabolism 41(6): 437-445



Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is able to convert calories into heat rather than storing them. Therefore, activated BAT could be a potential target in the battle against obesity and type 2 diabetes. This review focuses on the role of the autonomic nervous system in the activation of human BAT. Although the number of studies focusing on BAT in humans is limited, involvement of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) in BAT activation is evident. Metabolic BAT activity can be visualized with (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose, whereas sympathetic activation of BAT can be visualized with nuclear-medicine techniques using different radiopharmaceuticals. Also, interruption of the sympathetic nerves leading to BAT activation diminishes sympathetic stimulation, resulting in reduced metabolic BAT activity. Furthermore, both β- and α-adrenoceptors might be important in the stimulation process of BAT, as pretreatment with propranolol or α-adrenoceptor blockade also diminishes BAT activity. In contrast, high catecholamine levels are known to activate and recruit BAT. There are several interventional studies in which BAT was successfully inhibited, whereas only one interventional study aiming to activate BAT resulted in the intended outcome. Most studies have focused on the SNS for activating BAT, although the parasympathetic nervous system might also be a target of interest. To better define the possible role of BAT in strategies to combat the obesity epidemic, it seems likely that future studies focusing on both histology and imaging are essential for identifying the factors and receptors critical for activation of human BAT.

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Accession: 058791247

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PMID: 26404650

DOI: 10.1016/j.diabet.2015.08.005


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