Adipose Tissue as an Endocrine Organ: Impact on Insulin Resistance

Neth J Med. 2003 Jun;61(6):194-212.


It is well known that obesity is associated with insulin resistance and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Formerly it was postulated that increased lipolysis and consequently free fatty acid (FFA) production, from with triglycerides overloaded fat cells, would disrupt glucose homeostasis via Randle's hypothesis. Lipodystrophy, however, also leads to insulin resistance. Recently it has become clear that adipose tissue functions as an endocrine organ and secretes numerous proteins in response to a variety of stimuli. These secreted proteins exert a pleiotropic effect. The proteins that are involved in glucose and fat metabolism and hence can influence insulin resistance are discussed in this paper. They include leptin, resistin, adiponectin, acylation-stimulating protein, tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6. The stimuli for production and the site and mechanism of action in relation to insulin resistance will be discussed. None of these proteins are, however, without controversy with regard to their mechanism of action. Furthermore, some of these proteins may influence each other via common signalling pathways. A theory is presented to link the interrelationship between these adipocyte secretory products and their effect on insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiopathology*
  • Endocrine System / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*