Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 6, 1

Control of Adipocyte Differentiation in Different Fat Depots; Implications for Pathophysiology or Therapy


Control of Adipocyte Differentiation in Different Fat Depots; Implications for Pathophysiology or Therapy

Xiuquan Ma et al. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne).


Adipocyte differentiation and its impact on restriction or expansion of particular adipose tissue depots have physiological and pathophysiological significance in view of the different functions of these depots. Brown or "beige" fat [brown adipose tissue (BAT)] expansion can enhance thermogenesis, lipid oxidation, insulin sensitivity, and glucose tolerance; conversely expanded visceral fat [visceral white adipose tissue (VAT)] is associated with insulin resistance, low grade inflammation, dyslipidemia, and cardiometabolic risk. The largest depot, subcutaneous white fat [subcutaneous white adipose tissue (SAT)], has important beneficial characteristics including storage of lipid "out of harms way" and secretion of adipokines, especially leptin and adiponectin, with positive metabolic effects including lipid oxidation, energy utilization, enhanced insulin action, and an anti-inflammatory role. The absence of these functions in lipodystrophies leads to major metabolic disturbances. An ability to expand white adipose tissue adipocyte differentiation would seem an important defense mechanism against the detrimental effects of energy excess and limit harmful accumulation of lipid in "ectopic" sites, such as liver and muscle. Adipocyte differentiation involves a transcriptional cascade with PPARγ being most important in SAT but less so in VAT, with increased angiogenesis also critical. The transcription factor, Islet1, is fairly specific to VAT and in vitro inhibits adipocyte differentiation. The physiological importance of Islet1 requires further study. Basic control of differentiation is similar in BAT but important differences include the effect of PGC-1α on mitochondrial biosynthesis and upregulation of UCP1; also PRDM16 plays a pivotal role in expression of the BAT phenotype. Modulation of the capacity or function of these different adipose tissue depots, by altering adipocyte differentiation or other means, holds promise for interventions that can be helpful in human disease, particularly cardiometabolic disorders associated with the world wide explosion of obesity.

Keywords: adipocyte; adipocyte differentiation; adipogenesis; adipose tissue; brown adipose tissue; fat depot; subcutaneous white adipose tissue; visceral white adipose tissue.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 32 PubMed Central articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Frayn KN, Karpe F. Regulation of human subcutaneous adipose tissue blood flow. Int J Obes (Lond) (2014) 38:1019–26.10.1038/ijo.2013.200 - DOI - PubMed
    1. Hocking S, Samocha-Bonet D, Milner KL, Greenfield JR, Chisholm DJ. Adiposity and insulin resistance in humans: the role of the different tissue and cellular lipid depots. Endocr Rev (2013) 34:463–500.10.1210/er.2012-1041 - DOI - PubMed
    1. Rosen ED, Spiegelman BM. What we talk about when we talk about fat. Cell (2014) 156:20–44.10.1016/j.cell.2013.12.012 - DOI - PMC - PubMed
    1. Kras KM, Hausman DB, Hausman GJ, Martin RJ. Adipocyte development is dependent upon stem cell recruitment and proliferation of preadipocytes. Obes Res (1999) 7:491–7.10.1002/j.1550-8528.1999.tb00438.x - DOI - PubMed
    1. Gimble JM, Katz AJ, Bunnell BA. Adipose-derived stem cells for regenerative medicine. Circ Res (2007) 100:1249–60.10.1161/01.RES.0000265074.83288.09 - DOI - PMC - PubMed