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Glucocorticoids Acutely Increase Brown Adipose Tissue Activity in Humans, Revealing Species-Specific Differences in UCP-1 Regulation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-41
Number of pages12
JournalCell Metabolism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2016


The discovery of brown adipose tissue (BAT) in adult humans presents a new therapeutic target for metabolic disease; however, little is known about the regulation of human BAT. Chronic glucocorticoid excess causes obesity in humans, and glucocorticoids suppress BAT activation in rodents. We tested whether glucocorticoids regulate BAT activity in humans. In vivo, the glucocorticoid prednisolone acutely increased (18)fluorodeoxyglucose uptake by BAT (measured using PET/CT) in lean healthy men during mild cold exposure (16°C-17°C). In addition, prednisolone increased supraclavicular skin temperature (measured using infrared thermography) and energy expenditure during cold, but not warm, exposure in lean subjects. In vitro, glucocorticoids increased isoprenaline-stimulated respiration and UCP-1 in human primary brown adipocytes, but substantially decreased isoprenaline-stimulated respiration and UCP-1 in primary murine brown and beige adipocytes. The highly species-specific regulation of BAT function by glucocorticoids may have important implications for the translation of novel treatments to activate BAT to improve metabolic health.

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