Objective: A sexual dimorphism exists in body fat distribution; females deposit relatively more fat in subcutaneous/inguinal depots whereas males deposit more fat in the intra-abdominal/gonadal depot. Our objective was to systematically document depot- and sex-related differences in the accumulation of adipose tissue and gene expression, comparing differentially expressed genes in diet-induced obese mice with mice maintained on a chow diet.
Research design and methods: We used a microarray approach to determine whether there are sexual dimorphisms in gene expression in age-matched male, female or ovariectomized female (OVX) C57/BL6 mice maintained on a high-fat (HF) diet. We then compared expression of validated genes between the sexes on a chow diet.
Results: After exposure to a high fat diet for 12 weeks, females gained less weight than males. The microarray analyses indicate in intra-abdominal/gonadal adipose tissue in females 1642 genes differ by at least twofold between the depots, whereas 706 genes differ in subcutaneous/inguinal adipose tissue when compared with males. Only 138 genes are commonly regulated in both sexes and adipose tissue depots. Inflammatory genes (cytokine-cytokine receptor interactions and acute-phase protein synthesis) are upregulated in males when compared with females, and there is a partial reversal after OVX, where OVX adipose tissue gene expression is more 'male-like'. This pattern is not observed in mice maintained on chow. Histology of male gonadal white adipose tissue (GWAT) shows more crown-like structures than females, indicative of inflammation and adipose tissue remodeling. In addition, genes related to insulin signaling and lipid synthesis are higher in females than males, regardless of dietary exposure.
Conclusions: These data suggest that male and female adipose tissue differ between the sexes regardless of diet. Moreover, HF diet exposure elicits a much greater inflammatory response in males when compared with females. This data set underscores the importance of analyzing depot-, sex- and steroid-dependent regulation of adipose tissue distribution and function.