While it is now understood that the proper expansion of adipose tissue is critically important for metabolic homeostasis, it is also appreciated that adipose tissues perform far more functions than simply maintaining energy balance. Adipose tissue performs endocrine functions, secreting hormones or adipokines that affect the regulation of extra-adipose tissues, and, under certain conditions, can also be major contributors to energy expenditure and the systemic metabolic rate via the activation of thermogenesis. Adipose thermogenesis takes place in brown and beige adipocytes. While brown adipocytes have been relatively well studied, the study of beige adipocytes has only recently become an area of considerable exploration. Numerous suggestions have been made that beige adipocytes can elicit beneficial metabolic effects on body weight, insulin sensitivity, and lipid levels. However, the potential impact of beige adipocyte thermogenesis on systemic metabolism is not yet clear and an understanding of beige adipocyte development and regulation is also limited. This review will highlight our current understanding of beige adipocytes and select factors that have been reported to elicit the development and activation of thermogenesis in beige cells, with a focus on factors that may represent a link between exercise and ‘beiging’, as well as the role that thyroid hormone signaling plays in beige adipocyte regulation.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited