Atrophy of brown adipocytes in the adult mouse causes transformation into white adipocyte-like cells

Dae Whan Kim, Beom Sue Kim, Hee Seok Kwon, Chan Gil Kim, Han Woong Lee, Woong Hwan Choi, Chul Geun Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Adipose tissue is an important endocrine regulator of glucose metabolism and energy homeostasis. Researches have focused on this tissue not only as a target for pharmacotherapy of obesity and insulin resistance but also as an endocrine tissue with leptin secretion and high insulin sensitivity. Brown adipose tissue (BAT) additionally plays a unique role in thermoregulation through the mitochondrial uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), which uncouples oxidative phosphorylation. As a genetic tissue ablation model of BAT, we made transgenic mice expressing herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase (HSV-TK) driven by the brown adipocyte-specific UCP1 minimal regulatory element. The HSV-TK transgene was expressed specifically in BAT and more than 35% increase of apoptosis was induced by ganciclovir (GCV) treatment. Nevertheless, the expression level was not high enough to induce BAT ablation in GCV-treated adult mice. Importantly, however, we found that brown adipocytes in the periphery of interscapular BAT were transformed into white adipocyte-like unilocular cells. These cells express white adipocyte-specific leptin protein but are different in the ultrastructure of mitochondria from classical white adipocytes. Our data indicates that atrophy of BAT causes transformation into white adipocyte-like cells in the adult mouse and also suggests that further molecular understanding of adipocyte plasticity using our transgenic mouse model might be beneficial for the development of anti-obesity/antidiabetic therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)518-526
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental and Molecular Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2003 Dec 31

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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