Forming functional fat: a growing understanding of adipocyte differentiation

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2011 Sep 28;12(11):722-34. doi: 10.1038/nrm3198.


Adipose tissue, which is primarily composed of adipocytes, is crucial for maintaining energy and metabolic homeostasis. Adipogenesis is thought to occur in two stages: commitment of mesenchymal stem cells to a preadipocyte fate and terminal differentiation. Cell shape and extracellular matrix remodelling have recently been found to regulate preadipocyte commitment and competency by modulating WNT and RHO-family GTPase signalling cascades. Adipogenic stimuli induce terminal differentiation in committed preadipocytes through the epigenomic activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARγ). The coordination of PPARγ with CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein (C/EBP) transcription factors maintains adipocyte gene expression. Improving our understanding of these mechanisms may allow us to identify therapeutic targets against metabolic diseases that are rapidly becoming epidemic globally.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology*
  • Adipocytes / physiology*
  • Adipogenesis / genetics
  • Adipogenesis / physiology*
  • Animals
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Shape
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • PPAR gamma / genetics
  • PPAR gamma / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / physiology


  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins
  • PPAR gamma
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins