Adipose tissue fatty acid chain length and mono-unsaturation increases with obesity and insulin resistance

Sci Rep. 2015 Dec 17:5:18366. doi: 10.1038/srep18366.


The non-essential fatty acids, C18:1n9, C16:0, C16:1n7, C18:0 and C18:1n7 account for over 75% of fatty acids in white adipose (WAT) triacylglycerol (TAG). The relative composition of these fatty acids (FA) is influenced by the desaturases, SCD1-4 and the elongase, ELOVL6. In knock-out models, loss of SCD1 or ELOVL6 results in reduced Δ9 desaturated and reduced 18-carbon non-essential FA respectively. Both Elovl6 KO and SCD1 KO mice exhibit improved insulin sensitivity. Here we describe the relationship between WAT TAG composition in obese mouse models and obese humans stratified for insulin resistance. In mouse models with increasing obesity and insulin resistance, there was an increase in scWAT Δ9 desaturated FAs (SCD ratio) and FAs with 18-carbons (Elovl6 ratio) in mice. Data from mouse models discordant for obesity and insulin resistance (AKT2 KO, Adiponectin aP2-transgenic), suggested that scWAT TAG Elovl6 ratio was associated with insulin sensitivity, whereas SCD1 ratio was associated with fat mass. In humans, a greater SCD1 and Elovl6 ratio was found in metabolically more harmful visceral adipose tissue when compared to subcutaneous adipose tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetyltransferases / deficiency
  • Acetyltransferases / genetics
  • Adenosine Deaminase / deficiency
  • Adenosine Deaminase / genetics
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Fatty Acid Elongases
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Obese
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Triglycerides / chemistry
  • Triglycerides / metabolism*


  • ELOVL6 protein, human
  • Elovl6 protein, mouse
  • Fatty Acids
  • Triglycerides
  • Acetyltransferases
  • Fatty Acid Elongases
  • Adenosine Deaminase