The adipose organ

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2005 Jul;73(1):9-15. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2005.04.010.


In mammals, the adipose tissues are contained in a multi-depot organ: the adipose organ. It consists of several subcutaneous and visceral depots. Some areas of these depots are brown and correspond to brown adipose tissue, while many are white and correspond to white adipose tissue. The organ is rich of vessels and parenchymal nerve fibers, but their density is higher in the brown areas. White areas contain a variable amount of brown adipocytes and their number varies with age, strain and environmental conditions. All adipocytes of the adipose organ express a specific adrenoceptor: ss3AR. Recent data have stressed the plasticity of the adipose organ in adult animals, and in parallel with the cytological variations there are also vascular as well as neural variations. Of note, treatment of genetically and diet induced obese rats with ss3 adrenoceptor agonists ameliorate their pathological condition and this is accompanied by the appearance of brown adipocytes in white areas of the adipose organ. This drug-induced modification of the anatomy of the organ is also obtained by the treatment with PPARgamma agonists in rats and dogs. We have previously shown that the transformation of white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue in rats treated with ss3 adrenoceptor agonists is due to a direct transformation of differentiated unilocular adipocytes (transdifferentiation). We recently also showed that the absence of ss3 adrenoceptors strongly depress this type of plasticity in the adipose organ. All together these experiments strongly suggest the possibility to modulate the plasticity of the adipose organ with therapeutic implications for obesity and related disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Adipose Tissue / blood supply
  • Adipose Tissue / cytology
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown
  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cold Temperature
  • Fasting
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / physiopathology