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The team led by Prof. Francesc Villarroya (Photo: UB/CIBER).

Researchers identify a molecular auto-control system to avoid an excessive brown adipose tissue activity

A scientific team found, lead by Professor Francesc Villarroya, from the Faculty of Biology and the Institute of Biomedicine of the University of Barcelona (IBUB) present in PCB, found a new molecular auto-control system of lipidic metabolism, so far unknown, could help prevent the damaging effects derived from an excessive activation of the brown adipose tissue. The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.


The brown adipose tissue’s main function is to burn calories and create body heat using fat (thermogenesis). It also acts as an endocrine organ able to secrete factors that activate fat and carb metabolism and help prevent pathologies such as obesity and diabetes. However, an excessive and uncontrolled activity of the tissue could cause damaging effects such as cachexia -excessive loss of body weight- present in some types of cancer.

Now, a scientific team has found a new metabolism regulation system for the brown adipose tissue using the kallikrein-kinin hormonal system, so far related to the physiology of the renal and cardiovascular system and inflammation and pain processes. 

The new paper, published in Nature Communications, describes for the first time the relation of the kallikrein-kikin System with metabolic regulation systems in the brown adipose tissue. This tissue is activated as a reaction to environmental stimuli -temperature, diet, etc.- and its response is channelled through the sympathetic nervous system and hormonal factors. It was believed that the interruption of these inductors was the authentic limiting the thermogenic activity of fat. 

The study was led by Professor Francesc Villarroya, from the Faculty of Biology and the Institute of Biomedicine of the University of Barcelona (IBUB), and member of the Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition Networking Biomedical Research Centre (CIBERobn) from the Health Institute Carlos III. Other participants in the study are the experts from the University of Santiago de Compostela, Maastricht University (the Netherlands), and Humboldt University, the Center for Cardiovascular Research and Berlin Institute of Health (Germany).

“We now know that some active mechanisms can restrain this and that the own positive inductors can activate the Kallikrein-kinin system which acts as an auto-control mechanism to remove the brown adipose tissue activity”, notes Professor Villarroya, head of the research group on Genetics and Molecular Biology of Mitochondrial Proteins and Associated Pathologies of the UB.

“Although it may look contradictory -the activator signals determine the self-control of the system- and this could be explained if we consider the importance of the fine regulation of thermogenesis to avoid too much metabolites to burn without any physiological aim for the body”, notes the expert.

► Reference article: Peyrou, M. et al. (2020) “The kallikrein-kinin pathway as a mechanism for auto-control of brown adipose tissue activity“. Nature Communications. DOI:

► For further information: UB website [+]