Phytochemicals and regulation of the adipocyte life cycle

J Nutr Biochem. 2008 Nov;19(11):717-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2007.12.007. Epub 2008 May 20.


Natural products have potential for inducing apoptosis, inhibiting adipogenesis and stimulating lipolysis in adipocytes. The objective of this review is to discuss the adipocyte life cycle and various dietary bioactives that target different stages of adipocyte life cycle. Different stages of adipocyte development include preadipocytes, maturing preadipocytes and mature adipocytes. Various dietary bioactives like genistein, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), docosahexaenoic acid, epigallocatechin gallate, quercetin, resveratrol and ajoene affect adipocytes during specific stages of development, resulting in either inhibition of adipogenesis or induction of apoptosis. Although numerous molecular targets that can be used for both treatment and prevention of obesity have been identified, targeted monotherapy has resulted in lack of success. Thus, targeting several signal transduction pathways simultaneously with multiple natural products to achieve additive or synergistic effects might be an appropriate approach to address obesity. We have previously reported two such combinations, namely, ajoene+CLA and vitamin D+genistein. CLA enhanced ajoene-induced apoptosis in mature 3T3-L1 adipocytes by synergistically increasing the expression of several proapoptotic factors. Similarly, genistein potentiated vitamin D's inhibition of adipogenesis and induction of apoptosis in maturing preadipocytes by an enhanced expression of VDR (vitamin D receptor) protein. These two examples indicate that combination therapy employing compounds that target different stages of the adipocyte life cycle might prove beneficial for decreasing adipose tissue volume by inducing apoptosis or by inhibiting adipogenesis or both.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3T3-L1 Cells
  • Adipocytes / drug effects*
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adipogenesis
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Appetite Depressants / pharmacology
  • Genistein / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Lipolysis / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Phytotherapy / instrumentation*
  • Phytotherapy / methods
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*


  • Appetite Depressants
  • Lipids
  • Plant Extracts
  • Genistein