Role of sex hormones in modulation of brown adipose tissue activity

    1. Uberto Pagotto
    1. Endocrinology Unit and Centro di Ricerca Biomedica Applicata, Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
    1. (Correspondence should be addressed to U Pagotto; Email: uberto.pagotto{at}


    The recent demonstration that metabolically active brown adipose tissue (BAT) is present with a high prevalence in humans undoubtedly represents one of the major advancements in the field of metabolic research in the last few years. The increasing interest in BAT is justified by preclinical observations highlighting an important role of this tissue in energy dissipation and metabolic clearance of substrates from the blood. These findings imply that stimulation of BAT activity may represent a new therapeutic approach for obesity and associated comorbidities. However, before proposing BAT as a target organ for therapeutics in a clinical setting, many further notions about BAT function and modulation need to be explored. Keeping in mind the importance of sex dimorphism in energy metabolism control under physiological and pathological conditions, sex hormones may play a relevant role in the regulation of BAT activity in both males and females. Much of the evidence acquired in the past supports the concept of an important role for different sex hormones in BAT thermogenesis and indicates that this tissue mediates the ability of sex hormones to modulate energy balance. These findings make it plausible that a modified interaction between BAT and sex hormones may contribute to the development and the maintenance of obesity and associated metabolic complications.

    • Revision received 27 March 2012
    • Accepted 29 March 2012
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 29 March 2012
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