Nature communications

PD-L1 is an activation-independent marker of brown adipocytes.

PMID 28935898


Programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) is expressed on a number of immune and cancer cells, where it can downregulate antitumor immune responses. Its expression has been linked to metabolic changes in these cells. Here we develop a radiolabeled camelid single-domain antibody (anti-PD-L1 VHH) to track PD-L1 expression by immuno-positron emission tomography (PET). PET-CT imaging shows a robust and specific PD-L1 signal in brown adipose tissue (BAT). We confirm expression of PD-L1 on brown adipocytes and demonstrate that signal intensity does not change in response to cold exposure or β-adrenergic activation. This is the first robust method of visualizing murine brown fat independent of its activation state.Current approaches to visualise brown adipose tissue (BAT) rely primarily on markers that reflect its metabolic activity. Here, the authors show that PD-L1 is expressed on brown adipocytes, does not change upon BAT activation, and that BAT volume in mice can be measured by PET-CT with a radiolabeled anti-PD-L1 antibody.