Editors' ChoiceThermogenesis

Heart Hormones Regulate Brown Fat

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Science Translational Medicine  28 Mar 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 127, pp. 127ec55
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3004038

Too cold? Turn up your brown adipose tissue! Deposits of these cells maintain core body temperature in mammals by generating heat through nonshivering thermogenesis. The recent discovery of brown adipose tissue in humans has stirred interest in its potential as a target for anti-obesity therapies. β-Adrenergic receptors are known to trigger the thermogenesis process in brown adipose tissue. But now, Bordicchia et al. suggest that peptide hormones produced by the heart, known as cardiac natriuretic peptides, can also ramp up thermogenesis by adipose tissue.

Cardiac natriuretic peptides regulate fluid and hemodynamic homeostasis and exist in two forms: one from the atrium and one from the ventricle. The authors of this study found that treatment of human multipotent, adipose-derived stem cells with either form of this peptide hormone activated expression of thermogenic and mitochondrial genes. The effects of atrial natriuretic peptide on transcription of thermogenic genes were found to be additive with the stimulation provided by β-Adrenergic agonists. Infusion of ventricular natriuretic peptide into mice increased the amount of thermogenic protein in both white and brown fat. This form of the peptide also potently stimulated the appearance of brown-like adipocytes, with an associated increase in oxygen consumption and energy expenditure. The authors found that natriuretic peptides elicited these responses by increasing p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling.

This study did not assess the effectiveness of natriuretic peptides for weight loss. To do this, the authors would need to administer the peptide to mice that are already obese. It is also unknown whether these peptides modify the adrenergic sensitivity of other organs. Nevertheless, these newly found metabolic effects of the natriuretic peptides may lead to therapeutic solutions for the management of obesity and its associated complications.

M. Bordicchia et al., Cardiac natriuretic peptides act via p38 MAPK to induce the brown fat thermogenic program in mouse and human adipocytes. J. Clin. Invest. 122, 1022–1036 (2012). [Full Text]

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