Menthol consumption makes mice feel cool, literally. The exposure mimics chronic cold exposure and results in increased body temperature and resistance to dietary obesity.
J Mol Cell Biol (2012) 4 (2): 88-96. doi: 10.1093/jmcb/mjs001
Activation of the cold-sensing TRPM8 channel triggers UCP1-dependent thermogenesis and prevents obesity
Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is an energy-expending organ that produces heat. Expansion or activation of BAT prevents obesity and diabetes. Chronic cold exposure enhances thermogenesis in BAT through uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) activation triggered via a β-adrenergic pathway. Here, we report that the cold-sensing transient receptor potential melastatin 8 (TRPM8) is functionally present in mouse BAT. Challenging brown adipocytes with menthol, a TRPM8 agonist, up-regulates UCP1 expression and requires protein kinase A activation. Upon mimicking long-term cold exposure with chronic dietary menthol application, menthol significantly increased the core temperatures and locomotor activity in wild-type mice; these effects were absent in both TRPM8−/− and UCP1−/− mice. Dietary obesity and glucose abnormalities were also prevented by menthol treatment. Our results reveal a previously unrecognized role for TRPM8, suggesting that stimulation of this channel mediates BAT thermogenesis, which could constitute a promising way to treat obesity.