Staying warm requires communication

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Science  15 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6356, pp. 1109-1110
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6356.1109-c

Communicating lipids are released from adipocytes during cold exposure.


Mammals cope with falling temperatures by undergoing a series of metabolic changes, some of them poorly understood. In mice, Simcox et al. identified a previously unappreciated intertissue communication system that mobilizes energy for heat production. The molecular linchpins of this system are liver-derived serum lipids called acylcarnitines. Liver production of acylcarnitines increases at low temperatures because factors critical to their synthesis, free fatty acids, are released from white adipocytes upon cold exposure. Circulating acylcarnitines are then taken up by brown adipose tissue, which uses them as a fuel source for heat generation. Aging in mice is associated with increased cold sensitivity, and, interestingly, administration of molecules that enhance acylcarnitine synthesis reversed this sensitivity.

Cell Metab. 10.1016/j.cmet.2017.08.006 (2017).

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