Retrobulbar fat deposits surround the posterior retina and optic nerve head, but their function and origin are obscure. We report that mouse retrobulbar fat is a neural crest-derived tissue histologically and transcriptionally resembles interscapular brown fat. In contrast, human retrobulbar fat closely resembles white adipose tissue. Retrobulbar fat is also brown in other rodents, which are typically housed at temperatures below thermoneutrality, but is white in larger animals. We show that retrobulbar fat in mice housed at thermoneutral temperature show reduced expression of the brown fat marker Ucp1, and histological properties intermediate between white and brown fat. We conclude that retrobulbar fat can potentially serve as a site of active thermogenesis, that this capability is both temperature and species-dependent, and that this may facilitate regulation of intraocular temperature.
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