Sepsis induces adipose tissue browning in nonobese mice but not in obese mice

Itay Ayalon, Hui Shen, Lauren Williamson, Keith Stringer, Basilia Zingarelli, Jennifer M. Kaplan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Severe sepsis and septic shock are the biggest cause of mortality in critically ill patients. Obesity today is one of the world's greatest health challenges. Little is known about the extent of involvement of the white adipose tissue (WAT) in sepsis and how it is being modified by obesity. We sought to explore the involvement of the WAT in sepsis. We hypothesize that sepsis induces browning of the WATand that obesity alters the response of WAT to sepsis. Six-week-old C57BL/6 mice were randomized to a high-fat diet to induce obesity (obese group) or control diet (nonobese group). After 6 to 11 weeks of feeding, polymicrobial sepsis was induced by cecal ligation and puncture (CLP). Mice were sacrificed at 0, 18, and 72 h after CLP and epididymal WAT (eWAT), inguinal WAT, and brown adipose tissue (BAT) harvested. Both types of WAT were processed for light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy to assess for morphological changes in both obese and nonobese mice. Tissues were processed for immunohistochemistry, image analyses, and molecular analyses. BATs were used as a positive control. Nonobese mice have an extensive breakdown of the unilocular lipid droplet and smaller adipocytes in WATcompared with obese mice after sepsis. Neutrophil infiltration increases in eWAT in nonobese mice after sepsis but not in obese mice. Nonobese septic mice have an increase in mitochondrial density compared with obese septic mice. Furthermore, nonobese septic mice have an increase in uncoupling protein-1 expression. Although the WAT of nonobese mice have multiple changes characteristic of browning during sepsis, these changes are markedly blunted in obesity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-564
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Browning
  • lipolysis
  • obesity
  • sepsis
  • white adipose tissue


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