Recent advances have demonstrated that the adipose tissue plays a central role in regulating overall energy balance. Obesity results from a chronic deregulation of energy balance, with energy intake exceeding energy expenditure. Recently, new mechanisms that control the obesity phenotype such as the equilibrium between white and brown adipose tissue function has been identified. In this context, it is becoming increasingly clear that in addition to cellular growth, AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) also regulate lipid metabolism and adipogenesis. Here, we review recent advances in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in white and brown differentiation programs focusing on AMPK and mTOR signaling pathways, which may play differential roles in white adipose tissue and brown adipose tissue development. In view of the worldwide epidemic of obesity and its associated metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, targeting these kinases may represent a potential approach for reducing adiposity and improving obesity-related diseases. © 2013 IUBMB Life, 65(7):572–583, 2013.