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Abstract

Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is the main effector of nonshivering thermogenesis and diet-induced thermogenesis in mammals. Assessment of the magnitude and perturbations of BAT deposits in the intact, living body would be of much relevance for quantitative studies of BAT functions, but such studies have been impossible to date. In this paper it is shown that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) morphometry can provide the means for accurate, repeated determinations of the volume of BAT deposits in a living animal; moreover, tissue modifications due to acclimation at different ambient temperatures are revealed in vivo by MRI, which correlates with histology and ultrastructure. Furthermore, MRI differentiates areas of BAT responsive to acute adrenergic stimulation, thereby giving information on the thermogenetically active tissue in the intact animal. Therefore, MRI represents a reliable tool for correlative morphological and functional studies of BAT in the living animal.