HIV-related lipodystrophy is characterized by adipose redistribution, dyslipidemia, and insulin resistance. Adiponectin is an adipose-derived peptide thought to act as a systemic regulator of glucose and lipid metabolism. We investigated adiponectin concentrations in 10 HIV-infected patients during acute HIV infection (viral load, 2.0 x 10(6) +/- 1.0 x 10(6) copies/ml) and then 6-8 months later, as well as cross-sectionally in 41 HIV-infected patients (21 with evidence of fat redistribution and 20 without evidence of fat redistribution) in comparison with 20 age- and body mass index-matched healthy control subjects. Circulating adiponectin concentrations did not change with treatment of acute HIV infection (5.8 +/- 0.4 vs. 5.9 +/- 0.7 micro g/ml, P = 0.96) but were reduced in patients with chronic HIV infection and fat redistribution (7.8 +/- 0.9 micro g/ml), compared with age- and body mass index-matched HIV-infected patients without fat redistribution (12.7 +/- 1.7 micro g/ml) and healthy control subjects (11.9 +/- 1.7 micro g/ml, P < 0.05 vs. HIV-infected patients without fat redistribution and vs. control subjects). Adiponectin concentrations correlated with body composition [correlation coefficient (r) = -0.47, P = 0.002 vs. trunk fat:total fat; r = 0.51, P < 0.001 vs. extremity fat:total fat], insulin response to glucose challenge (r = -0.36, P = 0.03), triglyceride (r = -0.39, P = 0.01), and high-density lipoprotein (r = 0.37, P = 0.02) among the HIV-infected patients. Adiponectin remained a significant correlate of insulin response to GTT, controlling for medication use and body composition changes in HIV-infected patients. These data suggest a strong relationship between adiponectin and body composition in HIV-infected patients. Changes in adiponectin may contribute to the metabolic dysregulation in this group of patients.