The purpose of this study was to examine the source of adipokines released by the visceral and sc adipose tissues of obese humans. Human adipose tissue incubated in primary culture for 48 h released more prostaglandin E(2), IL-8, and IL-6 than adiponectin, whereas the release of plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 and hepatocyte growth factor was less than that of adiponectin but greater than that of leptin. IL-10 and TNFalpha were released in amounts less than those of leptin, whereas vascular endothelial growth factor and IL1-beta were released in much lower amounts. The accumulation of adipokines was also examined in the three fractions (adipose tissue matrix, isolated stromovascular cells, and adipocytes) obtained by collagenase digestion of adipose tissue. Over 90% of the adipokine release by adipose tissue, except for adiponectin and leptin, could be attributed to nonfat cells. Visceral adipose tissue released greater amounts of vascular endothelial growth factor, IL-6, and plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 compared with abdominal sc tissue. The greatly enhanced total release of TNFalpha, IL-8, and IL-10 by adipose tissue from individuals with a body mass index of 45 compared with 32 was due to nonfat cells. Furthermore, most of the adipokine release by the nonfat cells of adipose tissue was due to cells retained in the tissue matrix after collagenase digestion.