Adipocyte and Cell Biology

Parathyroid hormone induces a browning program in human white adipocytes

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Energy dissipation through the promotion of brown adipose tissue (BAT) or browning of white adipose tissue has recently evolved as novel promising concept in the fight against metabolic disease. New evidence suggests that hormones can contribute to the thermogenic programming of adipocytes through paracrine or endocrine actions. Recent studies in rodents identified parathyroid hormone (PTH) and PTH-related peptide as mediators of energy wasting in cachexia models due to adipocyte browning. However, the effects of PTH on human adipocyte thermogenesis and metabolic activity are unknown. Here we isolated subcutaneous white adipocyte precursor cells (APCs) from human donors followed by stimulation with recombinant PTH. Our data show that acute and chronic PTH administration in primary in vitro differentiated human subcutaneous adipocytes induces a molecular thermogenic program with increased mitochondrial activity and oxidative respiratory capacity. PTH also enhances hormone sensitive lipase activity and lipolysis in human adipocytes which may contribute to the observed thermogenic effects. In summary, we demonstrate here that PTH is a novel mediator of human adipocyte browning, suggesting a hitherto unknown endocrine axis between the parathyroid gland and adipose tissue in humans.

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We thank Rita Lang and Helga Schachner for excellent technical support.

Author contributions

OCH, AF, FWK designed study, researched data and wrote manuscript. AD, KS, SBP, MB, LK, MV, and AEB researched data and revised manuscript.


This work was supported by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) LS12-059 and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) P 27391-B26 (both to FWK) and DK W1248-B30 (to AEB).

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Correspondence to Florian W. Kiefer.

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