• A Corrigendum to this article was published on 07 November 2017

This article has been updated


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) and beige adipose tissue combust fuels for heat production in adult humans, and so constitute an appealing target for the treatment of metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes and hyperlipidemia1,2. Cold exposure can enhance energy expenditure by activating BAT, and it has been shown to improve nutrient metabolism3,4,5. These therapies, however, are time consuming and uncomfortable, demonstrating the need for pharmacological interventions. Recently, lipids have been identified that are released from tissues and act locally or systemically to promote insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance; as a class, these lipids are referred to as 'lipokines'6,7,8. Because BAT is a specialized metabolic tissue that takes up and burns lipids and is linked to systemic metabolic homeostasis, we hypothesized that there might be thermogenic lipokines that activate BAT in response to cold. Here we show that the lipid 12,13-dihydroxy-9Z-octadecenoic acid (12,13-diHOME) is a stimulator of BAT activity, and that its levels are negatively correlated with body-mass index and insulin resistance. Using a global lipidomic analysis, we found that 12,13-diHOME was increased in the circulation of humans and mice exposed to cold. Furthermore, we found that the enzymes that produce 12,13-diHOME were uniquely induced in BAT by cold stimulation. The injection of 12,13-diHOME acutely activated BAT fuel uptake and enhanced cold tolerance, which resulted in decreased levels of serum triglycerides. Mechanistically, 12,13-diHOME increased fatty acid (FA) uptake into brown adipocytes by promoting the translocation of the FA transporters FATP1 and CD36 to the cell membrane. These data suggest that 12,13-diHOME, or a functional analog, could be developed as a treatment for metabolic disorders.

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Change history

  • 23 August 2017

    In the phrase, “Here we show that the lipid 12,13-dihydroxy-9Z-octadecenoic acid (12,13-diHOME) is a stimulator of BAT activity, and that its levels are negatively correlated with body-mass index and insulin sensitivity,” located in the abstract, the word “resistance” should take the place of the word “sensitivity”.   Also, the authors have clarified in more detail how the FATP1 oligomer density was quantitated in Figure 4f. This information can be found in the “Membrane Fractionation” section of the Online Methods: “To quantify FATP1 in scanned immunoblots, regions of interest of identical size were drawn in each lane at the same molecular weight, and integrated pixel density was measured using ImageJ software. For each independent experimental replicate, the integrated pixel density for each lane was expressed normalized to the control lane, or in the case of the experimental replicate with two control lanes, the integrated pixel density for each lane was expressed normalized to the average of both control lanes. The data are expressed as the average normalized value for each lane, with the error bars representing s.e.m.”


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This work was supported in part by US National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants R01DK077097 and R01DK102898 (to Y.-H.T.), R01DK099511 (to L.J.G.), K01DK105109 (to K.I.S.), institutional research training grant T32DK007260 and individual research fellowship F32DK102320 (to M.D.L.); P30DK036836 (to Joslin Diabetes Center's Diabetes Research Center); a research grant from the American Diabetes Foundation (ADA 7-12-BS-191 to Y.-H.T.); a Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Research Fellowship (BA 4925/1-1 to A.B.); and a grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research (to M.L.). This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). We thank K. Longval and A. Clermont of the Joslin Diabetes Center Animal Physiology core, H. Rockwell, K. Schlosser and J. McDaniel at BERG for expert technical assistance. We thank K. Inouye and P. Lizotte for critical discussion.

Author information


  1. Section on Integrative Physiology and Metabolism, Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Matthew D Lynes
    • , Luiz O Leiria
    • , Morten Lundh
    • , Farnaz Shamsi
    • , Tian Lian Huang
    • , Hirokazu Takahashi
    • , Michael F Hirshman
    • , Laurie J Goodyear
    •  & Yu-Hua Tseng
  2. The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.

    • Morten Lundh
  3. Department of Genetics and Complex Diseases & Sabri Ülker Center, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Alexander Bartelt
    • , Christian Schlein
    • , Alexandra Lee
    •  & Gökhan S Hotamisligil
  4. Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, Dorothy M. Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA.

    • Lisa A Baer
    • , Francis J May
    •  & Kristin I Stanford
  5. BERG, Framingham, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Fei Gao
    • , Niven R Narain
    • , Emily Y Chen
    •  & Michael A Kiebish
  6. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

    • Aaron M Cypess
  7. Department of Medicine, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.

    • Matthias Blüher
  8. Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Yu-Hua Tseng


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M.D.L. designed research, carried out experiments, analyzed data and wrote the paper. L.O.L. carried out fatty acid uptake in vitro and Seahorse assays. M.L. carried out translocation assays. A.B., A.L. and C.S. carried out fatty acid–, triglyceride- and glucose-uptake assays in vivo. F.S. and T.L.H. performed gene-expression analysis and immunoblotting. H.T. carried out fatty acid–uptake assays in vitro. M.F.H., L.A.B. and F.J.M. carried out in vivo experiments. F.G., N.R.N. and M.A.K. oversaw lipidomics experiments. E.Y.C. performed lipidomic experiments and analyzed data. A.M.C. designed research and carried out human cold-exposure experiments. M.B. provided human plasma from well-phenotyped human individuals for 12,13-diHOME measurements. L.J.G. oversaw FA-uptake experiments. G.S.H. oversaw tracer-uptake experiments in vivo. K.I.S. oversaw in vivo experiments and analyzed data. M.D.L. and Y.-H.T. directed the research and co-wrote the paper.

Competing interests

M.A.K., E.Y.C., N.R.N. and F.G. are employees of BERG.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yu-Hua Tseng.

Supplementary information

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  1. 1.

    Supplementary Text and Figures

    Supplementary Figures 1–7 and Supplementary Tables 1–4


  1. 1.

    Supplementary Video 1

    Representative imaging of FFA-SS-Luc uptake in UCP1cre+/−Rosa(stop)Luc+/− injected intravenously with luciferin-conjugated fatty acid and 12,13-diHOME or vehicle. Data from individual images using sequential, one-minute exposures over approximately 50 minutes was stacked into a movie. The animal on the left is the vehicle treated and the mouse on the right is treated with 12,13-diHOME.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Video 2

    Representative imaging of FFA-SS-Luc uptake in CAG-Luc+/+ brown adipocyte cells treated with 12,13-diHOME or vehicle and then incubate with luciferin-conjugated fatty acid. Data from individual images using sequential, 30 second exposures over approximately 50 minutes was stacked into a movie. The well on the left is vehicle treated and the well on the right is treated with 12,13-diHOME.

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