Adaptive thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue involves activation of pannexin-1 channels

Subramanian Senthivinayagam, Vlad Serbulea, Clint M. Upchurch, Renata Polanowska-Grabowska, Suresh K. Mendu, Srabani Sahu, Prathiba Jayaguru, Kevin W. Aylor, Mahendra D. Chordia, Limor Steinberg, Nathaniel Oberholtzer, Seichii Uchiyama, Noriko Inada, Ulrike M. Lorenz, Thurl E. Harris, Susanna R. Keller, Akshaya K. Meher, Alexandra Kadl, Bimal N. Desai, Bijoy K. KunduNorbert Leitinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objective: Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is specialized in thermogenesis. The conversion of energy into heat in brown adipocytes proceeds via stimulation of β-adrenergic receptor (βAR)-dependent signaling and activation of mitochondrial uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1). We have previously demonstrated a functional role for pannexin-1 (Panx1) channels in white adipose tissue; however, it is not known whether Panx1 channels play a role in the regulation of brown adipocyte function. Here, we tested the hypothesis that Panx1 channels are involved in brown adipocyte activation and thermogenesis. Methods: In an immortalized brown pre-adipocytes cell line, Panx1 currents were measured using patch-clamp electrophysiology. Flow cytometry was used for assessment of dye uptake and luminescence assays for adenosine triphosphate (ATP) release, and cellular temperature measurement was performed using a ratiometric fluorescence thermometer. We used RNA interference and expression plasmids to manipulate expression of wild-type and mutant Panx1. We used previously described adipocyte-specific Panx1 knockout mice (Panx1Adip-/-) and generated brown adipocyte-specific Panx1 knockout mice (Panx1BAT-/-) to study pharmacological or cold-induced thermogenesis. Glucose uptake into brown adipose tissue was quantified by positron emission tomography (PET) analysis of 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) content. BAT temperature was measured using an implantable telemetric temperature probe. Results: In brown adipocytes, Panx1 channel activity was induced either by apoptosis-dependent caspase activation or by β3AR stimulation via a novel mechanism that involves Gβγ subunit binding to Panx1. Inactivation of Panx1 channels in cultured brown adipocytes resulted in inhibition of β3AR-induced lipolysis, UCP-1 expression, and cellular thermogenesis. In mice, adiponectin-Cre-dependent genetic deletion of Panx1 in all adipose tissue depots resulted in defective β3AR agonist- or cold-induced thermogenesis in BAT and suppressed beigeing of white adipose tissue. UCP1-Cre-dependent Panx1 deletion specifically in brown adipocytes reduced the capacity for adaptive thermogenesis without affecting beigeing of white adipose tissue and aggravated diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance. Conclusions: These data demonstrate that Gβγ-dependent Panx1 channel activation is involved in β3AR-induced thermogenic regulation in brown adipocytes. Identification of Panx1 channels in BAT as novel thermo-regulatory elements downstream of β3AR activation may have therapeutic implications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101130
JournalMolecular Metabolism
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Pannexin channels
  • Thermogenesis
  • adipocyte
  • brown adipose tissue


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