Biomarkers of browning of white adipose tissue and their regulation during exercise- And diet-induced weight loss

Asif Nakhuda, Andrea R. Josse, Valentina Gburcik, Hannah Crossland, Frederic Raymond, Sylviane Metairon, Liam Good, Philip J. Atherton, Stuart M. Phillips, James A. Timmons*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)
210 Downloads (Pure)


Background: A hypothesis exists whereby an exercise- or dietaryinduced negative energy balance reduces human subcutaneous white adipose tissue (scWAT) mass through the formation of brown-like adipocyte (brite) cells. However, the validity of biomarkers of brite formation has not been robustly evaluated in humans, and clinical data that link brite formation and weight loss are sparse. Objectives: We used rosiglitazone and primary adipocytes to stringently evaluate a set of biomarkers for brite formation and determined whether the expression of biomarker genes in scWAT could explain the change in body composition in response to exercise training combined with calorie restriction in obese and overweight women (n = 79). Design: Gene expression was derived from exon DNA microarrays and preadipocytes from obesity-resistant and -sensitive mice treated with rosiglitazone to generate candidate brite biomarkers from a microarray. These biomarkers were evaluated against data derived from scWAT RNA from obese and overweight women before and after supervised exercise 5 d/wk for 16 wk combined with modest calorie restriction (w0.84 MJ/d). Results: Forty percent of commonly used brite gene biomarkers exhibited an exon or strain-specific regulation. No biomarkers were positively related to weight loss in human scWAT. Greater weight loss was significantly associated with less uncoupling protein 1 expression (P = 0.006, R2 = 0.09). In a follow-up global analysis, there were 161 genes that covaried with weight loss that were linked to greater CCAAT/enhancer binding protein a activity (z = 2.0, P = 6.6 3 1027), liver X receptor a/b agonism (z = 2.1, P = 2.8 3 1027), and inhibition of leptin-like signaling (z = 22.6, P = 3.9 3 1025). Conclusion: We identify a subset of robust RNA biomarkers for brite formation and show that calorie-restriction-mediated weight loss in women dynamically remodels scWAT to take on a more-white rather than a morebrown adipocyte phenotype. Am J Clin Nutr 2016;104:557-65.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-565
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • Browning
  • Exercise
  • Microarray
  • Obesity
  • Weight loss
  • White adipose tissue


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