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

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Brian WalkerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2016 The Author(s)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 18fluorodeoxyglucose 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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ramage LE, Akyol M, Fletcher AM, Forsythe J, Nixon M, Carter RN, van Beek EJR, Morton NM, Walker BR, Stimson RH

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cell Metabolism

Year: 2016

Volume: 24

Issue: 1

Pages: 130-141

Print publication date: 12/07/2016

Online publication date: 12/07/2016

Acceptance date: 15/06/2016

Date deposited: 22/12/2017

ISSN (print): 1550-4131

ISSN (electronic): 1932-7420

Publisher: Cell Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2016.06.011

PubMed id: 27411014


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Funder referenceFunder name
British Heart Foundation
Wellcome Trust