The role of the novel adipocyte-derived hormone adiponectin in human disease

Eur J Endocrinol. 2003 Mar;148(3):293-300. doi: 10.1530/eje.0.1480293.


Adiponectin, also called GBP-28, apM1, AdipoQ and Acrp30, is a novel adipose tIssue-specific protein that has structural homology to collagen VIII and X and complement factor C1q, and that circulates in human plasma at high levels. It is one of the physiologically active polypeptides secreted by adipose tIssue, whose multiple functions have started to be understood in the last few Years.A reduction in adiponectin expression is associated with insulin resistance in some animal models. Administration of adiponectin has been accompanied by a reduction in plasma glucose and an increase in insulin sensitivity. In addition, thiazolidinediones, drugs that enhance insulin sensitivity through stimulation of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma, increase plasma adiponectin and mRNA levels in mice. On the other hand, this adipocyte protein seems to play a protective role in experimental models of vascular injury. In humans, adiponectin levels are inversely related to the degree of adiposity and positively associated with insulin sensitivity both in healthy subjects and in diabetic patients. Plasma adiponectin levels have been reported to be decreased in some insulin-resistant states, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus, and also in patients with coronary artery disease. On the contrary, chronic renal failure, type 1 diabetes and anorexia nervosa are associated with increased plasma adiponectin levels. Concentrations of plasma adiponectin have been shown to correlate negatively with glucose, insulin, triglyceride levels and body mass index, and positively with high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels and insulin-stimulated glucose disposal. Weight loss and therapy with thiazolidinediones increased endogenous adiponectin production in humans. Adiponectin increases insulin sensitivity by increasing tIssue fat oxidation, resulting in reduced circulating fatty acid levels and reduced intracellular triglyceride contents in liver and muscle. This protein also suppresses the expression of adhesion molecules in vascular endothelial cells and cytokine production from macrophages, thus inhibiting the inflammatory processes that occur during the early phases of atherosclerosis. In view of these data, it is possible that hypoadiponectinemia may play a role in the development of atherosclerotic vascular disease. In summary, the ability of adiponectin to increase insulin sensitivity in conjunction with its anti-inflammatory and anti-atherogenic properties have made this novel adipocytokine a promising therapeutic tool for the future, with potential applications in states associated with low plasma adiponectin levels.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / physiology*
  • Adiponectin
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins*
  • Proteins / pharmacology
  • Proteins / physiology*
  • Proteins / therapeutic use


  • Adiponectin
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Proteins