Stimulation of brown adipocytes by their sympathetic innervation plays a major role in body energy homeostasis by regulating the energy-wasting activity of the tissue. The norepinephrine released by sympathetic activity acts on adrenergic receptors to activate a variety of metabolic and membrane responses. Since sympathetic stimulation may also release vesicular ATP, we tested brown fat cells for ATP responses. We find that micromolar concentrations of extracellular ATP initiates profound changes in the membrane trafficking of brown adipocytes. ATP elicited substantial increases in total cell membrane capacitance, averaging approximately 30% over basal levels and occurring on a time scale of seconds to minutes. The membrane capacitance increase showed an agonist sensitivity of 2-methylthio-ATP > or = ATP > ADP > > adenosine, consistent with mediation by a P2r type purinergic receptor. Membrane capacitance increases were not seen when cytosolic calcium was increased by adrenergic stimulation, and capacitance responses to ATP were similar in the presence and absence of extracellular calcium. These results indicate that increases in cytosolic calcium alone do not mediate the membrane response to ATP. Photometric assessment of surface-accessible membrane using the dye FM1-43 showed that ATP caused an approximate doubling of the amount of membrane actively trafficking with the cell surface. The discrepancy in the magnitudes of the capacitance and fluorescence changes suggests that ATP both activates exocytosis and alters other aspects of membrane handling. These findings suggest that secretion, mobilization of membrane transporters, and/or surface membrane expression of receptors may be regulated in brown adipocytes by P2r purinergic receptor activity.

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