The adipose tissue organ is organised as distinct anatomical depots located all along the body axis and it is constituted of three different types of adipocytes : white, beige and brown which are integrated with vascular, immune, neural and extracellular stroma cells. These distinct adipocytes serve different specialised functions. The main function of white adipocytes is to ensure healthy storage of excess nutrients/energy and its rapid mobilisation to supply the demand of energy imposed by physiological cues in other organs, whereas brown and beige adipocytes are designed for heat production through uncoupling lipid oxidation from energy production. The concert action of the three type of adipocytes/tissues has been reported to ensure an optimal metabolic status in rodents. However, when one or multiple of these adipose depots become dysfunctional as a consequence of sustained lipid/nutrient overload, then insulin resistance and associated metabolic complications ensue. These metabolic alterations negatively affects the adipose tissue functionality and compromises global metabolic homeostasis. Optimising white adipose tissue expandability and its functional metabolic flexibility and/or promoting brown/beige mediated thermogenic activity counteracts obesity and its associated lipotoxic metabolic effects. The development of these therapeutic approaches requires a deep understanding of adipose tissue in all broad aspects. In this chapter we will discuss the characteristics of the different adipose tissue depots with respect to origins and precursors recruitment, plasticity, cellular composition and expandability capacity as well as molecular and metabolic signatures in both physiological and pathophysiological conditions.
Keywords: Brown adipose tissue; Expandability; Fibrosis; Inflammation; Lipotoxicity; Obesity; WAT browning; White adipose tissue.