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Current understanding of in vivo human brown adipose tissue (BAT) physiology is limited by a reliance on positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) scanning, which has measured exogenous glucose and fatty acid uptake but not quantified endogenous substrate utilization by BAT. Six lean, healthy men underwent 18fluorodeoxyglucose-PET/CT scanning to localize BAT so microdialysis catheters could be inserted in supraclavicular BAT under CT guidance and in abdominal subcutaneous white adipose tissue (WAT). Arterial and dialysate samples were collected during warm (∼25°C) and cold exposure (∼17°C), and blood flow was measured by 133xenon washout. During warm conditions, there was increased glucose uptake and lactate release and decreased glycerol release by BAT compared with WAT. Cold exposure increased blood flow, glycerol release, and glucose and glutamate uptake only by BAT. This novel use of microdialysis reveals that human BAT is metabolically active during warm conditions. BAT activation substantially increases local lipolysis but also utilization of other substrates such as glutamate.

Original publication




Journal article


Cell Metab

Publication Date





1348 - 1355.e4


(133)xenon, PET/CT, brown adipose tissue, cold exposure, human, microdialysis, physiology, substrate utilization, tracer