Neurotrophic factors are a family of growth factors that regulate neuronal plasticity. Thus far, these factors have been understudied in peripheral tissues, including adipose tissues, where they could play a key role in mediating the neuronal inputs that lead to energy expenditure via lipolysis (white fat) and thermogenesis (brown fat). Based on prior experiments, we hypothesized that brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is the main neurotrophic factor acting in adipose tissues to mediate neurite outgrowth and branching of incoming sympathetic nerves. We found that BDNF knock-out animals had less innervation of their white fat, shown by reduced expression of neuronal markers, but a paradoxical increase in cold-stimulated brown adipogenesis in white fat (‘browning’). Further investigation using immunofluorescent staining indicates that although browning can be activated by some alternate factor that remains ambigious, innervation and stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system is required for activation of UCP1- mediated thermogenesis.
Wood, Elizabeth, "Novel Role for a Neurotrophic Factor in White Adipose Tissue" (2016). Honors College. 413.