In rodents, cold exposure induces the activation of brown adipose tissue (BAT) and the induction of intracellular triacylglycerol (TAG) lipolysis. However, in humans, the kinetics of supraclavicular (SCV) BAT activation and the potential importance of TAG stores remain poorly defined.
To determine the time course of BAT activation and changes in intracellular TAG using MRI assessment of the SCV (i.e., BAT depot) and fat in the posterior neck region (i.e., non-BAT).
Clinical research center.
Patients or Other Participants
Twelve healthy male volunteers aged 18 to 29 years [body mass index = 24.7 ± 2.8 kg/m2 and body fat percentage = 25.0% ± 7.4% (both, mean ± SD)].
Standardized whole-body cold exposure (180 minutes at 18°C) and immediate rewarming (30 minutes at 32°C).
Main Outcome Measure(s)
Proton density fat fraction (PDFF) and T2* of the SCV and posterior neck fat pads. Acquisitions occurred at 5- to 15-minute intervals during cooling and subsequent warming.
SCV PDFF declined significantly after only 10 minutes of cold exposure [−1.6% (SE: 0.44%; P = 0.007)] and continued to decline until 35 minutes, after which time it remained stable until 180 minutes. A similar time course was also observed for SCV T2*. In the posterior neck fat (non-BAT), there were no cold-induced changes in PDFF or T2*. Rewarming did not result in a change in SCV PDFF or T2*.
The rapid cold-induced decline in SCV PDFF suggests that in humans BAT is activated quickly in response to cold and that TAG is a primary substrate.