The ultrastructure of rat brown adipose tissue (BAT) and of adipocytes cultured from BAT were studied by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Brown adipocytes in the intact tissue were arranged in lobules with bundles of collagen among them; within each lobule 20- to 40-µm-large adipocytes were packed together. Fibers of reticular collagen enveloped each adipocyte and also connected each cell to vessels and nerves. At the adipocyte surface rounded protrusions were present, which corresponded to the BAT-typical multivacuolar lipid depot. Gradual digestion of the stroma with collagenase disclosed a more delicate, felt-like cover surrounding each adipocyté, probably representing the external lamina of the cell. Complete digestion of the stroma showed a smooth plasmalemma with occasional roundish blebs which varied in size. Cultured (24 h) brown adipocytes from the stromal-vascular fraction of BAT were elongated or polygonal in shape, with a flattened, central nucleus and a number of spherical cytoplasmatic inclusions which have the same dimension and location as lipid droplets. These inclusions were arranged either at cellular poles or around the nucleus; this suggests that brown adipocytes with mature features were present in the culture. Pictures suggesting the detachment of lipid droplets from the cell body were also visible. Lipid droplet extrusion could be a complementary mechanism which might explain the rapid delipidation of brown adipocytes in culture.

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