Excessive accumulation of white adipose tissue leads to obesity and its associated metabolic health consequences such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Several approaches to treat or prevent obesity including public health interventions, surgical weight loss, and pharmacological approaches to reduce caloric intake have failed to substantially modify the increasing prevalence of obesity. The (re-)discovery of active brown adipose tissue (BAT) in adult humans approximately 15 years ago led to a resurgence in research into whether BAT activation could be a novel therapy for the treatment of obesity. Upon cold stimulus, BAT is activated and generates heat to maintain body temperature, thus increasing energy expenditure. Activation of BAT may provide a unique opportunity to increase energy expenditure without the need for exercise. However, much of the underlying mechanisms surrounding BAT activation are still being elucidated and the effectiveness of BAT as a therapeutic target has not been realised. Research is ongoing to determine how best to expand BAT mass and activate existing BAT; approaches include cold exposure, pharmacological stimulation using sympathomimetics, browning agents that induce formation of thermogenic beige adipocytes in white adipose depots, and the identification of factors secreted by BAT with therapeutic potential. In this review, we discuss the caloric capacity and other metabolic benefits from BAT activation in humans and the role of metabolic tissues such as skeletal muscle in increasing energy expenditure. We discuss the potential of current approaches and the challenges of BAT activation as a novel strategy to treat obesity and metabolic disorders.
Ben T McNeill, Karla J Suchacki, and Roland H. Stimson
Helga A Sigurjonsdottir, Ruth Andrew, Roland H Stimson, Gudmundur Johannsson, and Brian R Walker
Evidence from long-term clinical studies measuring urinary steroid ratios, and from in vitro studies, suggests that GH administered for longer than 2 months down-regulates 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1), thereby reducing cortisol regeneration in liver and adipose tissue. We aimed to measure acute effects of GH on 11β-HSD1 in liver and adipose tissue in vivo, including using a stable isotope tracer.
Observational studies of GH withdrawal and reintroduction in patients with hypopituitarism.
Twelve men with benign pituitary disease causing GH and ACTH deficiency on stable replacement therapy for >6 months were studied after GH withdrawal for 3 weeks, and after either placebo or GH injections were reintroduced for another 3 weeks. We measured cortisol kinetics during 9,11,12,12-2H4-cortisol (d4-cortisol) infusion, urinary cortisol/cortisone metabolite ratios, liver 11β-HSD1 by appearance of plasma cortisol after oral cortisone, and 11β-HSD1 mRNA levels in subcutaneous adipose biopsies.
GH withdrawal and reintroduction had no effect on 9,12,12-[2H]3-cortisol (d3-cortisol) appearance, urinary cortisol/cortisone metabolite ratios, initial appearance of cortisol after oral cortisone, or adipose 11β-HSD1 mRNA. GH withdrawal increased plasma cortisol 30–180 min after oral cortisone, increased d4-cortisol clearance, and decreased relative excretion of 5α-reduced cortisol metabolites.
In this setting, GH did not regulate 11β-HSD1 rapidly in vivo in humans. Altered cortisol metabolism with longer term changes in GH may reflect indirect effects on 11β-HSD1. These data do not suggest that glucocorticoid replacement doses need to be increased immediately after introducing GH therapy to compensate for reduced 11β-HSD1 activity, although dose adjustment may be required in the longer term.
Alessandra Gambineri, Federica Tomassoni, Alessandra Munarini, Roland H Stimson, Roberto Mioni, Uberto Pagotto, Karen E Chapman, Ruth Andrew, Vilma Mantovani, Renato Pasquali, and Brian R Walker
Regeneration of cortisol by 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) within liver and adipose tissue may be of pathophysiological importance in obesity and the metabolic syndrome. single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in HSD11B1, the gene encoding 11β-HSD1, have been associated with type 2 diabetes and hypertension in population-based cohort studies, and with hyperandrogenism in patients with the polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). However, the functional consequences of these SNPs for in vivo 11β-HSD1 expression and activity are unknown.
We explored associations of well-characterised hormonal and metabolic phenotypes with two common SNPs (rs846910 and rs12086634) in HSD11B1 in 600 women (300 with PCOS) and investigated 11β-HSD1 expression and activity in a nested study of 40 women from this cohort.
HSD11B1 genotypes (as single SNPs and as the combination of the two minor allele SNPs) were not associated with PCOS. Women who were heterozygous for rs846910 A and homozygous for rs12086634 T (GA, TT genotype) had a higher risk of metabolic syndrome, regardless of the diagnosis of PCOS (odds ratio in the whole cohort=2.77 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.16–6.67), P=0.023). In the nested cohort, women with the GA, TT genotype had higher HSD11B1 mRNA levels in adipose tissue, and higher rates of appearance of cortisol and d3-cortisol (16.1±0.7 nmol/min versus 12.1±1.1, P=0.044) during 9,11,12,12-2H4-cortisol (d4-cortisol) steady-state infusion.
We conclude that, in a population of Southern European Caucasian women with and without PCOS, alleles of HSD11B1 containing the two SNPs rs846910 A and rs12086634 T confer increased 11β-HSD1 expression and activity, which associates with the metabolic syndrome.
Thang S Han, Nils Krone, Debbie S Willis, Gerard S Conway, Stefanie Hahner, D Aled Rees, Roland H Stimson, Brian R Walker, Wiebke Arlt, Richard J Ross, and the United Kingdom Congenital adrenal Hyperplasia Adult Study Executive (CaHASE)
Quality of life (QoL) has been variously reported as normal or impaired in adults with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). To explore the reasons for this discrepancy we investigated the relationship between QoL, glucocorticoid treatment and other health outcomes in CAH adults.
Cross-sectional analysis of 151 adults with 21-hydroxylase deficiency aged 18–69 years in whom QoL (assessed using the Short Form Health Survey), glucocorticoid regimen, anthropometric and metabolic measures were recorded. Relationships were examined between QoL, type of glucocorticoid (hydrocortisone, prednisolone and dexamethasone) and dose of glucocorticoid expressed as prednisolone dose equivalent (PreDEq). QoL was expressed as z-scores calculated from matched controls (14 430 subjects from UK population). Principal components analysis (PCA) was undertaken to identify clusters of associated clinical and biochemical features and the principal component (PC) scores used in regression analysis as predictor of QoL.
QoL scores were associated with type of glucocorticoid treatment for vitality (P=0.002) and mental health (P=0.011), with higher z-scores indicating better QoL in patients on hydrocortisone monotherapy (P<0.05). QoL did not relate to PreDEq or mutation severity. PCA identified three PCs (PC1, disease control; PC2, adiposity and insulin resistance and PC3, blood pressure and mutations) that explained 61% of the variance in observed variables. Stepwise multiple regression analysis demonstrated that PC2, reflecting adiposity and insulin resistance (waist circumference, serum triglycerides, homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance and HDL-cholesterol), related to QoL scores, specifically impaired physical functioning, bodily pain, general health, Physical Component Summary Score (P<0.001) and vitality (P=0.002).
Increased adiposity, insulin resistance and use of prednisolone or dexamethasone are associated with impaired QoL in adults with CAH. Intervention trials are required to establish whether choice of glucocorticoid treatment and/or weight loss can improve QoL in CAH adults.