We have investigated the difference in gene expression of six proteins secreted by adipocytes in paired biopsies from visceral and abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue in nine individuals with various degrees of obesity. The mRNAs levels of leptin, TNFalpha, angiotensinogen, acylation stimulating protein (ASP), cholesterol ester transfer protein (CETP) and phospholipid transfer protein (PLTP) were quantified by RT-competitive PCR. ASP and angiotensinogen mRNA levels were higher in the visceral fat, whereas the mRNA levels of leptin and CETP were higher in the subcutaneous depot. TNFalpha mRNA expression was similar in the two sites. For angiotensinogen, the difference was more pronounced in the subjects with body mass index (BMI) lower than 30 kg/m(2) whereas for ASP, CETP and leptin, the difference was observed regardless the BMI of the subjects. PLTP mRNA levels in subcutaneous, but not in the visceral, adipose tissue were positively related to the BMI of the subjects. These results strongly suggest that visceral and subcutaneous adipocytes may have different properties in the production of bioactive molecules.