The secretory function of adipocytes in the physiology of white adipose tissue

J Cell Physiol. 2008 Jul;216(1):3-13. doi: 10.1002/jcp.21386.


White adipose tissue, previously regarded as a passive lipid storage site, is now viewed as a dynamic tissue. It has the capacity to actively communicate by sending and receiving different types of signals. An overview of these signals, the external modulators that affect adipose tissue and the secreted signaling molecules, the adipokines, is presented. The secretory function is highlighted in relation to energy metabolism, inflammation and the extracellular matrix and placed in the context of adipose tissue biology. We observe that the endocrine function of adipocytes receives much attention, while its paracrine and autocrine functions are underestimated. Also, we provide examples that species specificity should not be neglected. We conclude that adipose tissue primarily is an energy storage organ, well supported by its secretory function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / metabolism*
  • Adipocytes / physiology
  • Adipokines / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue, White* / cytology
  • Adipose Tissue, White* / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Endocrine Glands / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Species Specificity


  • Adipokines