Brown fat activation reduces hypercholesterolaemia and protects from atherosclerosis development

Berbée JF, Boon MR, Khedoe PP, Bartelt A, Schlein C, Worthmann A, Kooijman S, Hoeke G, Mol IM, John C, Jung C, Vazirpanah N, Brouwers LP, Gordts PL, Esko JD, Hiemstra PS, Havekes LM, Scheja L, Heeren J, Rensen PC. Brown fat activation reduces hypercholesterolaemia and protects from atherosclerosis development. Nat Commun. 2015 Mar 10;6:6356. doi: 10.1038/ncomms7356. PMID: 25754609 PMCID: PMC4366535

Brown adipose tissue (BAT) combusts high amounts of fatty acids, thereby lowering plasma triglyceride levels and reducing obesity. However, the precise role of BAT in plasma cholesterol metabolism and atherosclerosis development remains unclear. Here we show that BAT activation by β3-adrenergic receptor stimulation protects from atherosclerosis in hyperlipidemic APOE*3-Leiden.CETP mice, a well-established model for human-like lipoprotein metabolism that unlike hyperlipidemic Apoe(-/-) and Ldlr(-/-) mice expresses functional apoE and LDLR. BAT activation increases energy expenditure and decreases plasma triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that BAT activation enhances the selective uptake of fatty acids from triglyceride-rich lipoproteins into BAT, subsequently accelerating the hepatic clearance of the cholesterol-enriched remnants. These effects depend on a functional hepatic apoE-LDLR clearance pathway as BAT activation in Apoe(-/-) and Ldlr(-/-) mice does not attenuate hypercholesterolaemia and atherosclerosis. We conclude that activation of BAT is a powerful therapeutic avenue to ameliorate hyperlipidaemia and protect from atherosclerosis.