CL316,243 and cold stress induce heterogeneous expression of UCP1 mRNA and protein in rodent brown adipocytes

Saverio Cinti, Raffaella Cancello, Maria Cristina Zingaretti, Enzo Ceresi, Rita De Matteis, Antonio Giordano, Jean Himms-Hagen, Daniel Ricquier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), the mammalian thermogenic mitochondrial protein, is found only in brown adipocytes, but its expression by immunohistochemistry is not homogeneous. Here we present evidence that the non-homogeneous pattern of immunostaining for UCP1 (referred to as the "Harlequin phenomenon") is particularly evident after acute and chronic cold (4C) stimulus and after administration of a specific β3-adrenoceptor agonist (CL316,243). Accordingly, mRNA in situ expression confirmed the UCP1 non-homogeneous pattern of gene activation under conditions of adrenergic stimulus. Furthermore, morphometric analysis of immunogold-stained thin sections showed that UCP1-gold particle density was different among neighboring brown adipocytes with mitochondria of the same size and density. When the adrenergic stimulus was reduced in warm-acclimated animals (28C), UCP1 protein and mRNA expression was reduced and consequently the Harlequin phenomenon was barely visible. These data suggest the existence of an alternative and controlled functional recruitment of brown adipocytes in acute adrenergically stressed animals, possibly to avoid heat and metabolic damage in thermogenically active cells. Of note, the heat shock protein heme oxygenase 1 (HO1) is heterogeneously expressed in adrenergically stimulated brown adipose tissue and, specifically, cells expressing strong immunoreactivity for UCP1 also strongly express HO1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-31
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • β-adrenoceptor agonist
  • Brown adipose tissue
  • Heat shock protein
  • Heme oxygenase
  • Thermogenesis
  • Uncoupling protein 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Cell Biology


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