Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UCLA Previously Published Works bannerUCLA

Increased Expression of Beige/Brown Adipose Markers from Host and Breast Cancer Cells Influence Xenograft Formation in Mice



The initiation and progression of breast cancer is a complex process that is influenced by heterogeneous cell populations within the tumor microenvironment. Although adipocytes have been shown to promote breast cancer development, adipocyte characteristics involved in this process remain poorly understood. In this study, we demonstrate enrichment of beige/brown adipose markers, contributed from the host as well as tumor cells, in the xenografts from breast cancer cell lines. In addition to uncoupling protein-1 (UCP1) that is exclusively expressed in beige/brown adipocytes, gene expression for classical brown (MYF5, EVA1, and OPLAH) as well as beige (CD137/TNFRSF9 and TBX1) adipocyte markers was also elevated in the xenografts. Enrichment of beige/brown characteristics in the xenografts was independent of the site of implantation of the breast tumor cells. Early stages of xenografts showed an expansion of a subset of mammary cancer stem cells that expressed PRDM16, a master regulator of brown adipocyte differentiation. Depletion of UCP1(+) or Myf5(+) cells significantly reduced tumor development. There was increased COX2 (MT-CO2) expression, which is known to stimulate formation of beige adipocytes in early xenografts and treatment with a COX2 inhibitor (SC236) reduced tumor growth. In contrast, treatment with factors that induce brown adipocyte differentiation in vitro led to larger tumors in vivo. A panel of xenografts derived from established breast tumor cells as well as patient tumor tissues were generated that expressed key brown adipose tissue-related markers and contained cells that morphologically resembled brown adipocytes.


This is the first report demonstrating that beige/brown adipocyte characteristics could play an important role in breast tumor development and suggest a potential target for therapeutic drug design.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View