Beige adipocyte mitochondria contribute to thermogenesis by uncoupling and by ATP-consuming futile cycles. Since uncoupling may inhibit ATP synthesis, it is expected that expenditure through ATP synthesis is segregated to a disparate population of mitochondria. Recent studies in mouse brown adipocytes identified peridroplet mitochondria (PDM) as having greater ATP synthesis and pyruvate oxidation capacities, while cytoplasmic mitochondria have increased fatty acid oxidation and uncoupling capacities. However, the occurrence of PDM in humans and the processes that result in their expansion have not been elucidated. Here, we describe a novel high-throughput assay to quantify PDM that is successfully applied to white adipose tissue from mice and humans. Using this approach, we found that PDM content varies between white and brown fat in both species. We used adipose tissue from pheochromocytoma (Pheo) patients as a model of white adipose tissue browning, which is characterized by an increase in the capacity for energy expenditure. In contrast with control subjects, PDM content was robustly increased in the periadrenal fat of Pheo patients. Remarkably, bioenergetic changes associated with browning were primarily localized to PDM compared to cytoplasmic mitochondria (CM). PDM isolated from periadrenal fat of Pheo patients had increased ATP-linked respiration, Complex IV content and activity, and maximal respiratory capacity. We found similar changes in a mouse model of re-browning where PDM content in whitened brown adipose tissue was increased upon re-browning induced by decreased housing temperature. Taken together, this study demonstrates the existence of PDM as a separate functional entity in humans and that browning in both mice and humans is associated with a robust expansion of peri-droplet mitochondria characterized by increased ATP synthesis linked respiration.
- Adipose tissue
- Peridroplet mitochondria