Despite tremendous research efforts to identify regulatory factors that control energy metabolism, the prevalence of obesity has been continuously rising, with nearly 40% of US adults being obese. Interactions between secretory factors from adipose tissues and the nervous system innervating adipose tissues play key roles in maintaining energy metabolism and promoting survival in response to metabolic challenges. It is currently accepted that there are three types of adipose tissues, white (WAT), brown (BAT), and beige (BeAT), all of which play essential roles in maintaining energy homeostasis. WAT mainly stores energy under positive energy balance, while it releases fuels under negative energy balance. Thermogenic BAT and BeAT dissipate energy as heat under cold exposure to maintain body temperature. Adipose tissues require neural and endocrine communication with the brain. A number of WAT adipokines and BAT batokines interact with the neural circuits extending from the brain to cooperatively regulate whole-body lipid metabolism and energy homeostasis. We review neuroanatomical, histological, genetic, and pharmacological studies in neuroendocrine regulation of adipose function, including lipid storage and mobilization of WAT, non-shivering thermogenesis of BAT, and browning of BeAT. Recent whole-tissue imaging and transcriptome analysis of differential gene expression in WAT and BAT yield promising findings to better understand the interaction between secretory factors and neural circuits, which represents a novel opportunity to tackle obesity.
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