The 'beneficial' adipokines in reproduction and fertility

Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Feb;32(2):223-31. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803719. Epub 2007 Oct 9.


The objective of this study was to review the available information on the signaling proteins produced by adipose tissue in the context of their role in regulating reproductive processes, including ovarian and uterine function. It is well known that both obesity and excessive leanness are associated with reproductive dysfunction. Adipokines are cytokines predominantely or exclusively expressed by adipose tissue that circulate and affect target tissues. Four known adipokines, adiponectin, visfatin/PBEF, omentin and vaspin, all increase tissue sensitivity to insulin, and are thus described as 'beneficial'. There is strong support for a role for adiponectin in the function of the ovary and placenta. There is evidence for direct effects of this adipokine on the late stages of folliculogenesis, and additive interactions of adiponectin with insulin and gonadotropins in inducing periovulatory changes in ovarian follicles. In addition, clinical and genomic studies associate hypoadiponectinemia with obesity-related reproductive disorders, including the polycystic ovarian syndrome. The roles for visfatin/PBEF, omentin and vaspin in reproduction remain to be established. The conclusion thus drawn is that the expression of insulin-sensitizing adipokines varies with adipose abundance. These adipokines have demonstrated both the potential effects on ovarian function and the possible effects on the formation of the placenta, acting through multiple mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / physiology*
  • Adiponectin / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / etiology
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Ovary / physiology*
  • Placenta / drug effects
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Uterus / physiology*


  • Adipokines
  • Adiponectin