Shared Autonomic Pathways Connect Bone and Adipose Tissue.

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Bone marrow adipose tissue (BMAT) is increased in both obesity and anorexia. This is unique relative to white adipose tissue (WAT), which is generally more attuned to metabolic demand. It suggests that there may be regulatory pathways that are common to both BMAT and WAT and also those that are specific to BMAT alone. The central nervous system (CNS) is a key mediator of adipose tissue function through sympathetic adrenergic neurons. Thus, we hypothesized that central autonomic pathways may be involved in BMAT regulation. To test this, we first quantified the innervation of BMAT by tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) positive nerves within the metaphysis and diaphysis of the tibia of B6 and C3H mice. We found that many of the TH+ axons were concentrated around central blood vessels in the bone marrow. However, there were also areas of free nerve endings which terminated in regions of BMAT adipocytes. Overall, the proportion of nerve-associated BMAT adipocytes increased from proximal to distal along the length of the tibia (from ~3-5 to ~14-24%), regardless of mouse strain. To identify the central pathways involved in BMAT innervation and compare to peripheral WAT, we then performed retrograde viral tract tracing with an attenuated pseudorabies virus (PRV) to infect efferent nerves from the tibial metaphysis (inclusive of BMAT) and inguinal WAT (iWAT) of C3H mice. PRV positive neurons were identified consistently from both injection sites in the intermediolateral horn of the spinal cord, reticular formation, rostroventral medulla, solitary tract, periaqueductal gray, locus coeruleus, subcoeruleus, Barrington’s nucleus, and hypothalamus. We also observed dual-PRV infected neurons within the majority of these regions. Similar tracings were observed in pons, midbrain, and hypothalamic regions from B6 femur and tibia, demonstrating that these results persist across mouse strains and between skeletal sites. Altogether, this is the first quantitative report of BMAT autonomic innervation and reveals common central neuroanatomic pathways, including putative “command” neurons, involved in coordinating multiple aspects of sympathetic output and facilitation of parallel processing between bone marrow/BMAT and peripheral adipose tissue.