To quantify the potential of brown adipose tissue as a target organ for glucose oxidation, O2 consumption and glucose metabolism in isolated rat brown adipocytes were measured in the presence and absence of insulin, by using the beta-agonists isoprenaline or Ro 16-8714 to stimulate thermogenesis. Basal metabolic rate (278 mumol of O2/h per g of lipid) was maximally stimulated with isoprenaline (20 nm) and Ro 16-8714 (20 microM) to 1633 and 1024 mumol of O2/h per g respectively, whereas insulin had no effect on O2 consumption. Total glucose uptake, derived from the sum of [U-14C]glucose incorporation into CO2 and total lipids and lactate release, was enhanced with insulin. Isoprenaline and Ro 16-8714 had no effect on insulin-induced glucose uptake, but promoted glucose oxidation while inhibiting insulin-dependent lipogenesis and lactate production. A maximal value for glucose oxidation was obtained under the combined action of Ro 16-8714 and insulin, which corresponded to an equivalent of 165 mumol of O2/h per g of lipid. This makes it clear that glucose is a minor substrate for isolated brown adipocytes, fuelling thermogenesis by a maximum of 16%.

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