Brown adipose tissue and collagenase-isolated brown adipocytes were investigated in rats by means of 1H and 13C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. After chloroform-methanol extraction of brown adipose tissue, proton and natural abundance 13C spectra of the chloroform fraction showed resonances attributable to triglycerides, and were qualitatively similar to those of the corresponding fraction of white adipose tissue. By means of quantitative analysis of 1H spectra, fatty acid unsaturation and polyunsaturation in triglycerides were found to be lower in brown than white adipose tissue; moreover, unsaturation parameters decreased in triglyceride fatty acids of brown adipose tissue upon norepinephrine administration or cold acclimatization of rats, and were affected by the age of donors. The molar percentage of mono- and polyunsaturated C18 fatty acids in triglycerides was determined from 13C spectra and found to change in the early post-natal period. Isolated, agarose-embedded brown adipocytes from 4-day-old rats showed a number of peaks in the carbohydrate region of 1H spectra that were not present in spectra of white adipocytes and almost disappeared in brown fat cells of older animals. These peaks could be restored by insulin exposure. Natural abundance 13C spectra of isolated brown adipocytes were resolved enough to allow unambiguous assignment of resonances to carbons of fatty acids, glycerol, glucose, ethanolamine, and choline. Calculation of the mono- to polyunsaturated fatty acids ratio in the cells was also performed. Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy is a useful tool for the investigation of brown adipose tissue and adipocytes therefrom.
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