Brown adipose tissue (BAT) dissipates energy in the form of heat and functions as a metabolic sink for lipids, glucose, and branched-chain amino acids. Enhanced BAT thermogenesis is thought to tightly couple with beneficial energy metabolism. However, in this issue of the JCI, Huang et al. report a mouse model in which BAT thermogenesis was impaired, yet systemic glucose and lipid homeostasis were improved, on a high-fat diet compared with what occurred in control mice. The authors showed that BAT-specific deletion of mitochondrial thioredoxin-2 (TRX2) impaired adaptive thermogenesis through elevated mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cytosolic efflux of mitochondrial DNA. On the other hand, TRX2 loss enhanced lipid uptake in the BAT and protected mice from obesity, hypertriglyceridemia, and insulin resistance. This study provides a unique model in which BAT does not require thermogenesis per se to function as a lipid sink that leads to metabolic benefits in vivo.
Jin-Seon Yook, Shingo Kajimura
BAT improves systemic metabolism by enhancing lipid clearance from the circulation, regardless of impaired thermogenic activity.