Biomedical Fast Takes


Carnitine May Boost Brown Fat

The juvenile visceral steatosis (JVS) mouse is a mutant strain with an inherited systemic carnitine deficiency. Mice of this strain show clinical signs due to impaired heat production and disturbed energy production. Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is the primary site of non-shivering thermogenesis in the presence of uncoupling protein-1 (UCP-1) in rodents and humans, especially in infants.

To investigate the possible cause of impaired heat production in BAT, researchers at the Department of Pathology, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science, at Setsunan University, Hirakata in Osaka, Japan studied the morphological features, carnitine concentration, and UCP-1 production of BAT in the mutant strain JVS mice.1 The effect of carnitine supplementation on these parameters was also examined.


These findings strongly suggest that
carnitine is essential for maintaining
the function and structure of BAT, the
motors of thermogenesis.


Carnitine deficiency mice, aged 5 or 10 days (60 each), and age-matched control mice were used in this study, along with 10-day-old similarly mutated mice treated subcutaneously with L-carnitine once a day between postpartum days 5 and 10. Carnitine-deficiency mice showed lower body temperatures and lower concentrations of carnitine in BAT.

Of importance, BAT cells in JVS mice contained large lipid vacuoles (membrane-bound organelles) and small mitochondria, similar to those present in white adipose tissue cells. In addition, UCP-1 mRNA and protein expression levels were significantly reduced in JVS as compared with control mice. Carnitine treatment resulted in significant increases in body temperature and carnitine concentrations in BAT, together with the recovery of normal morphological features. UCP-1 mRNA and protein expression levels were also significantly increased. These findings strongly suggest that carnitine is essential for maintaining the function and structure of BAT, containing the motors of thermogenesis.

Reference

  1. Ozaki K, Sano T, Tsuji N, Matsuura T, Narama I. Carnitine is necessary to maintain the phenotype and function of brown adipose tissue. Lab Invest 2011 Feb 14. [Epub ahead of print]

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