Ejection of damaged mitochondria and their removal by macrophages ensure efficient thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue


Recent findings have demonstrated that mitochondria can be transferred between cells to control metabolic homeostasis. Although the mitochondria of brown adipocytes comprise a large component of the cell volume and undergo reorganization to sustain thermogenesis, it remains unclear whether an intercellular mitochondrial transfer occurs in brown adipose tissue (BAT) and regulates adaptive thermogenesis. Herein, we demonstrated that thermogenically stressed brown adipocytes release extracellular vesicles (EVs) that contain oxidatively damaged mitochondrial parts to avoid failure of the thermogenic program. When re-uptaken by parental brown adipocytes, mitochondria-derived EVs reduced peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ signaling and the levels of mitochondrial proteins, including UCP1. Their removal via the phagocytic activity of BAT-resident macrophages is instrumental in preserving BAT physiology. Depletion of macrophages in vivo causes the abnormal accumulation of extracellular mitochondrial vesicles in BAT, impairing the thermogenic response to cold exposure. These findings reveal a homeostatic role of tissue-resident macrophages in the mitochondrial quality control of BAT.

In Cell Metabolism
Nick Borcherding
Nick Borcherding
Assistant Professor

My research includes systems immunology, single-cell sequencing technology, and computational frameworks.