The cellular mechanism(s) linking macrophages to norepinephrine (NE)-mediated regulation of thermogenesis have been a topic of debate. Here we identify sympathetic neuron-associated macrophages (SAMs) as a population of cells that mediate clearance of NE via expression of solute carrier family 6 member 2 (SLC6A2), an NE transporter, and monoamine oxidase A (MAOA), a degradation enzyme. Optogenetic activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) upregulates NE uptake by SAMs and shifts the SAM profile to a more proinflammatory state. NE uptake by SAMs is prevented by genetic deletion of Slc6a2 or inhibition of the encoded transporter. We also observed an increased proportion of SAMs in the SNS of two mouse models of obesity. Genetic ablation of Slc6a2 in SAMs increases brown adipose tissue (BAT) content, causes browning of white fat, increases thermogenesis, and leads to substantial and sustained weight loss in obese mice. We further show that this pathway is conserved, as human sympathetic ganglia also contain SAMs expressing the analogous molecular machinery for NE clearance, which thus constitutes a potential target for obesity treatment.
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Animals, CX3C Chemokine Receptor 1, Gene Expression Profiling, Homeostasis, Macrophages, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Transgenic, Neurons, Norepinephrine, Norepinephrine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins, Obesity, Sympathetic Nervous System