Regional differences of insulin action in adipose tissue: insights from in vivo and in vitro studies

Acta Physiol Scand. 2005 Jan;183(1):13-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-201X.2004.01385.x.


Adipose tissue is now recognized to have a multitude of functions that are of importance in the regulation of energy balance and substrate metabolism. Different hormones, in particular insulin and catecholamines, govern the storage and utilization of energy in the triglyceride depots. In addition, adipocytes produce several different substances with endocrine or paracrine functions, which regulate the overall energetic homeostasis. With excess energy storage, obesity develops, leading to increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The distribution of body fat appears to be even more important than the total amount of fat. Abdominal and, in particular, visceral adiposity is strongly linked to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidaemia, leading to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The adverse metabolic impact of visceral fat has been attributed to distinct biological properties of adipocytes in this depot compared with other adipose tissue depots. Indeed, regional variations in the metabolic activity of fat cells have been observed. Furthermore, expression studies aiming at defining the unique biological properties of adipose tissues from distinct anatomical sites have identified depot-related differences in the protein content of fat-produced molecules. In this review we wish to summarize important results from the literature and also some recent data from our own work. The main scope is to describe the biological functions of adipose tissue, and to focus on metabolic, hormonal, and signalling differences between fat depots.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / metabolism
  • Catecholamines / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Lipids / biosynthesis
  • Lipolysis / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Catecholamines
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Insulin
  • Lipids
  • Glucose