Triacylglycerol (TAG) stored in adipose tissue (AT) can be rapidly mobilized by the hydrolytic action of the three main lipases of the adipocyte. The non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) released are used by other tissues during times of energy deprivation. Until recently hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL) was considered to be the key rate-limiting enzyme responsible for regulating TAG mobilization. A novel lipase named adipose triglyceride lipase/desnutrin (ATGL) has been identified as playing an important role in the control of fat cell lipolysis. Additionally perilipin and other proteins of the surface of the lipid droplets protecting or exposing the TAG core of the droplets to lipases are also potent regulators of lipolysis. Considerable progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms of activation of the various lipases. Lipolysis is under tight hormonal regulation. The best understood hormonal effects on AT lipolysis concern the opposing regulation by insulin and catecholamines. Heart-derived natriuretic peptides (i.e., stored in granules in the atrial and ventricle cardiomyocytes and exerting stimulating effects on diuresis and natriuresis) and numerous autocrine/paracrine factors originating from adipocytes and other cells of the stroma-vascular fraction may also participate in the regulation of lipolysis. Endocrine and autocrine/paracrine factors cooperate and lead to a fine regulation of lipolysis in adipocytes. Age, anatomical site, sex, genotype and species differences all play a part in the regulation of lipolysis. The manipulation of lipolysis has therapeutic potential in the metabolic disorders frequently associated with obesity and probably in several inborn errors of metabolism.