A modified protocol to maximize differentiation of human preadipocytes and improve metabolic phenotypes

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Dec;20(12):2334-40. doi: 10.1038/oby.2012.116. Epub 2012 May 4.


Adipose stromal cells proliferate and differentiate into adipocytes, providing a valuable model system for studies of adipocyte biology. We compared differentiation protocols for human preadipocytes and report on their metabolic phenotypes. By simply prolonging the adipogenic induction period from the first 3 to 7 days, the proportion of cells acquiring adipocyte morphology increased from 30-70% to over 80% in human subcutaneous preadipocytes (passages 5-6). These morphological changes were accompanied by increases in the adipogenic marker expression and improved adipocyte metabolic phenotypes: enhanced responses to β-adrenergically stimulated lipolysis and to insulin-stimulated glucose metabolism into triglyceride (TG). Confirming previous studies, fetal bovine serum (FBS) dose-dependently inhibited adipogenesis. However, in subcutaneous preadipocytes that differentiate well (donor-dependant high capacity and subcultured fewer than two times), the use of 7d-induction protocols in both 3% FBS and serum-free conditions allowed >80% differentiation. Responsiveness to β-adrenergically stimulated lipolysis was lower in 3% FBS. Rates of insulin-stimulated glucose uptake were higher in adipocytes differentiated with 3% FBS, whereas the sensitivity to insulin was almost identical between the two groups. In summary, extending the length of the induction period in adipogenic cocktail improves the degree of differentiation and responses to key metabolic hormones. This protocol permits functional analysis of metabolic phenotypes in valuable primary human adipocyte cultures through multiple passages.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology*
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adipogenesis
  • Adipose Tissue / cytology*
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Lipolysis
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Stromal Cells / metabolism


  • Insulin
  • Glucose