Brown Adipose Tissue Development and Metabolism

  • Su Myung Jung
  • Joan Sanchez-GurmachesEmail author
  • David A. GuertinEmail author
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 251)


Brown adipose tissue is well known to be a thermoregulatory organ particularly important in small rodents and human infants, but it was only recently that its existence and significance to metabolic fitness in adult humans have been widely realized. The ability of active brown fat to expend high amounts of energy has raised interest in stimulating thermogenesis therapeutically to treat metabolic diseases related to obesity and type 2 diabetes. In parallel, there has been a surge of research aimed at understanding the biology of rodent and human brown fat development, its remarkable metabolic properties, and the phenomenon of white fat browning, in which white adipocytes can be converted into brown like adipocytes with similar thermogenic properties. Here, we review the current understanding of the developmental and metabolic pathways involved in forming thermogenic adipocytes, and highlight some of the many unknown functions of brown fat that make its study a rich and exciting area for future research.


Adipogenesis Beige adipocyte Brite adipocyte Brown adipose tissue Development Glucose and lipid metabolism Lineage tracing Progenitor cells Thermogenesis Ucp1 



SMJ is supported by a postdoctoral fellowship award from the American Diabetes Association (1-18-PDF-128). JSG is supported by an American Heart Association Career Development award (18CDA34080527). DAG is supported by grants from the NIH (R01DK094004 and R01CA196986) and a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Career Development Award.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Program in Molecular MedicineUniversity of Massachusetts Medical SchoolWorcesterUSA
  2. 2.Division of Endocrinology, Division of Developmental BiologyCincinnati Children’s Hospital Research FoundationCincinnatiUSA
  3. 3.Department of PediatricsUniversity of Cincinnati College of MedicineCincinnatiUSA
  4. 4.Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology ProgramUniversity of Massachusetts Medical SchoolWorcesterUSA
  5. 5.Lei Weibo Institute for Rare DiseasesUniversity of Massachusetts Medical SchoolWorcesterUSA

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