Morphology of ferret subcutaneous adipose tissue after 6-month daily supplementation with oral beta-carotene

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 May 30;1740(2):305-12. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2004.10.012. Epub 2004 Nov 17.


Adipose tissue is an important retinoid depot and retinoids are known to influence white and brown adipocyte metabolism. Identifying nutrients that can affect the biological activity of the adipose organ would be of great medical interest in the light of the current obesity epidemic and related disorders in developed countries. The vast majority of mammal studies of chronic administration of oral beta-carotene have used murine models, while few have employed mammals exhibiting uptake and processing of intestinal beta-carotene similar to those of humans. While rodents transform practically all ingested beta-carotene into retinol, in ferrets, as in humans, part of the beta-carotene is absorbed and released into the circulation intact. We studied the effects of 6-month daily administration of two doses of oral beta-carotene (0.8 or 3.2 mg/kg/day) on ferret body weight, size of body fat depots, and, using morphological and morphometric methods, on subcutaneous (inguinal) white adipose tissue (WAT). Because of the oral mode of administration, liver, stomach, and small and large intestine were also studied. Control animals received the vehicle. Data show that at the end of treatment the higher dose induced significantly higher body weight compared with controls and significantly higher inguinal fat depot compared with animals treated with the lower dose. In addition, chronic treatment with beta-carotene induced a dose-dependent hypertrophy of white adipocytes and increased neoangiogenesis in subcutaneous WAT in all treated ferrets. Vasculogenesis was independent of adipocyte hypertrophy. We also found focally evident liver steatosis in the ferrets treated with the higher dose of beta-carotene. The other gastrointestinal tract organs studied were not significantly different from those of control animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / blood supply
  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects*
  • Adipose Tissue / pathology
  • Adipose Tissue / ultrastructure
  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Capillaries / anatomy & histology
  • Capillaries / drug effects
  • Capillaries / pathology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Ferrets
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / pathology
  • Organ Size
  • Subcutaneous Tissue
  • Time Factors
  • beta Carotene / administration & dosage
  • beta Carotene / pharmacology*


  • beta Carotene