Characterization of Brown Adipose–Like Tissue in Trauma-Induced Heterotopic Ossification in Humans

Elizabeth A. Salisbury, Austin R. Dickerson, Thomas A. Davis, Jonathan A. Forsberg, Alan R. Davis, Elizabeth A. Olmsted-Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Heterotopic ossification (HO), the abnormal formation of bone within soft tissues, is a major complication after severe trauma or amputation. Transient brown adipocytes have been shown to be a critical regulator of this process in a mouse model of HO. In this study, we evaluated the presence of brown fat within human HO lesions. Most of the excised tissue samples displayed histological characteristics of bone, fibroproliferative cells, blood vessels, and adipose tissue. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed extensive expression of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), a definitive marker of brown adipocytes, within HO-containing tissues but not normal tissues. As seen in the brown adipocytes observed during HO in the mouse, these UCP1+ cells also expressed the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator 1α. However, further characterization showed these cells, like their mouse counterparts, did not express PR domain containing protein 16, a key factor present in brown adipocytes found in depots. Nor did they express factors present in beige adipocytes. These results identify a population of UCP1+ cells within human tissue undergoing HO that do not entirely resemble either classic brown or beige adipocytes, but rather a specialized form of brown adipocyte-like cells, which have a unique function. These cells may offer a new target to prevent this unwanted bone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2071-2079
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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