Context: Obesity is associated with increased circulating 17β-estradiol (E₂), but less is known about E₂ concentrations in adipose tissue. In addition to E₂, adipose tissue synthesizes E₂ fatty acyl esters (E₂-FAE).
Objective: The aim was to compare estrogen concentrations and expression of estrogen-converting enzymes in adipose tissue between severely obese men and women.
Design and setting: Tissue samples were obtained during elective surgery in University Central Hospital in the years 2008 through 2011.
Patients: We studied 14 men and 22 premenopausal women undergoing bariatric surgery and 10 control women operated for nonmalignant reasons.
Interventions: Paired samples were taken from abdominal sc and visceral adipose tissue and serum and analyzed for E₂ and E₂-FAE by fluoroimmunoassay and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. mRNA expression of genes was analyzed by quantitative PCR.
Results: Compared with men, E₂ levels in sc adipose tissue in obese women were higher, along with higher relative mRNA expression of steroid sulfatase and 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases 1, 7, and 12. In men, E₂-FAE concentrations in adipose tissue were similar to E₂ but in women significantly lower compared with E₂. Adipose tissue E₂-FAE and serum E₂-FAE levels correlated positively in obese subjects. Serum E₂ did not significantly correlate with E₂ concentration or mRNA expression of genes in adipose tissue in obese men or women.
Conclusions: The production of E₂ by the large adipose mass was not reflected by increased circulating E₂ concentrations in severely obese men or women. However, adipose tissue may contribute to concentrations of serum E₂-FAE.