TNF-alpha is required for the attraction of mesenchymal precursors to white adipose tissue in Ob/ob mice

PLoS One. 2009;4(2):e4444. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004444. Epub 2009 Feb 13.


Most adult tissues harbour a stem cell subpopulation (Mesenchymal Precursors or MPs) that represent a small proportion of the total cell number and have the potential to differentiate into several cell types within the mesenchymal lineage. In adipose tissue, adipocytes account for two-thirds of the total cell number. The remaining cells include blood and endothelial cells, along with adipocyte precursors (adipose MPs). Obesity is defined as an excess of body fat that frequently results in a significant impairment of health. The ob/ob mice bear a mutation in the ob gene that causes a deficiency in the hormone leptin and hence obesity. Here, we present evidence that ob/ob mice have a dramatic decrease in the resident MP pool of several tissues, including squeletal muscle, heart, lung and adipose tissue. Moreover, we show that that there is a migration of MP cells from distant organs, as well as homing of these cells to the adipose tissue mass of the ob/ob mice. We call this process adipotaxis. Once in the adipose tissue, migrant MPs undergoe adipose differentiation, giving rise to new differentiated adipocytes within the adipose mass. Finally, we provide evidence that adipotaxis is largely explained by the production of high levels of Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) within the ob/ob adipose tissue. The therapeutic implications for human obesity as well as for regenerative medicine are further discussed in this paper.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / cytology
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese* / anatomy & histology
  • Mice, Obese* / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*


  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha