Brown adipose tissue (BAT) and brown-like cells in white adipose tissue (WAT) can dissipate energy through thermogenesis, a process mediated by uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1). We investigated whether stress hormones ACTH and corticosterone contribute to BAT activation and browning of WAT. ACTH and corticosterone were studied in male mice exposed to 4 or 23°C for 24 h. Direct effects were studied in T37i mouse brown adipocytes and primary cultured murine BAT and inguinal WAT (iWAT) cells. In vivo effects were studied using (18)F-deoxyglucose positron emission tomography. Cold exposure doubled serum ACTH concentrations (P=0.03) and fecal corticosterone excretion (P=0.008). In T37i cells, ACTH dose-dependently increased Ucp1 mRNA (EC50=1.8 nM) but also induced Ucp1 protein content 88% (P=0.02), glycerol release 32% (P=0.03) and uncoupled respiration 40% (P=0.003). In cultured BAT and iWAT, ACTH elevated Ucp1 mRNA by 3-fold (P=0.03) and 3.7-fold (P=0.01), respectively. In T37i cells, corticosterone prevented induction of Ucp1 mRNA and Ucp1 protein by both ACTH and norepinephrine in a glucocorticoid receptor (GR)-dependent fashion. ACTH and GR antagonist RU486 independently doubled BAT (18)F-deoxyglucose uptake (P=0.0003 and P=0.004, respectively) in vivo. Our results show that ACTH activates BAT and browning of WAT while corticosterone counteracts this.