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Brown and beige adipocytes are specialized cells that express uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) and dissipate chemical energy as heat. These cells likely possess alternative UCP1-independent thermogenic mechanisms. Here, we identify a secreted enzyme, peptidase M20 domain containing 1 (PM20D1), that is enriched in UCP1(+) versus UCP1(-) adipocytes. We??demonstrate that PM20D1 is a bidirectional enzyme in??vitro, catalyzing both the condensation of fatty acids and amino acids to generate N-acyl amino acids and also the reverse hydrolytic reaction. N-acyl amino acids directly bind mitochondria and function as endogenous uncouplers of UCP1-independent respiration. Mice with increased circulating PM20D1 have augmented respiration and increased N-acyl amino acids in blood. Lastly, administration of N-acyl amino acids to mice improves glucose homeostasis and increases energy expenditure. These data identify an enzymatic node and a family of metabolites that regulate energy homeostasis. This pathway might be useful for treating obesity and associated disorders.

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We need heat. All warm-blooded animals know this instinctively because when life leaves us, the cold creeps in fast. Heat is produced in different ways inside us, and not only to keep our body temperature at a healthy level but also to keep it stable. After...