The aim of the present study was to examine whether site differences in s.c. adipose tissue (AT) lipolysis may be considered a contributing factor to the altered metabolic risk profile of visceral compared to peripheral obese men once the concomitant variation in adipose cell size is taken into account. For this purpose, sc abdominal and femoral fat cell lipolytic responses were investigated in two groups of men (body mass index, 28 +/- 2 kg/m2), aged 36 +/- 3 yr, who were matched for both s.c. abdominal AT area (256 +/- 64 cm2) and s.c. abdominal adipose cell weight (0.55 +/- 0.08 microg lipid/cell) but were characterized by either a high (162 +/- 29 cm2; n = 18) or a low (101 +/- 21 cm2; n = 18) visceral AT deposition. The maximal lipolytic response to epinephrine or to isoproterenol (beta-adrenergic agonist) as well as the maximal antilipolytic effect of either epinephrine or clonidine (alpha2-adrenergic agonist) assessed in s.c. adipocytes were similar among men with low vs. high levels of visceral AT. However, the beta-adrenoceptor sensitivity was increased in s.c. abdominal adipose cells of individuals with a high visceral AT accumulation compared to those with a low intraabdominal fat deposition. Positive relationships were also found between the lipolytic sensitivity of s.c. abdominal adipocytes and plasma insulin concentrations measured in the fasting state and after an oral glucose load. These results suggest that variation in the degree of visceral adiposity in men does not seem to be associated with differences in regional adipose cell maximal lipolytic capacity once fat cell size is taken into account. However, the greater beta-adrenoceptor lipolytic sensitivity of s.c. abdominal adipocytes could be considered a significant correlate of the increased insulinemia observed among men characterized by high levels of visceral AT.