Concise review: adipocyte origins: weighing the possibilities

Stem Cells. 2011 Jul;29(7):1034-40. doi: 10.1002/stem.653.


Adipose tissue is the primary energy reservoir in the body and an important endocrine organ that plays roles in energy homeostasis, feeding, insulin sensitivity, and inflammation. While it was tacitly assumed that fat in different anatomical locations had a common origin and homogenous function, it is now clear that regional differences exist in adipose tissue characteristics and function. This is exemplified by the link between increased deep abdominal or visceral fat, but not peripheral adipose tissue and the metabolic disturbances associated with obesity. Regional differences in fat function are due in large part to distinct adipocyte populations that comprise the different fat depots. Evidence accrued primarily in the last decade indicates that the distinct adipocyte populations are generated by a number of processes during and after development. These include the production of adipocytes from different germ cell layers, the formation of distinct preadipocyte populations from mesenchymal progenitors of mesodermal origin, and the production of adipocytes from hematopoietic stem cells from the bone marrow. This review will examine each of these process and their relevance to normal adipose tissue formation and contribution to obesity-related diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology*
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / cytology*
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / cytology*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / metabolism
  • Mice