Factors regulating subcutaneous adipose tissue storage, fibrosis, and inflammation may underlie low fatty acid mobilization in insulin-sensitive obese adults

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Oct 1;313(4):E429-E439. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00084.2017. Epub 2017 Jul 5.


Although the rate of fatty acid release from adipose tissue into the systemic circulation is very high in most obese adults, some obese adults maintain relatively low rates of fatty acid release, which helps protect them against the development of systemic insulin resistance. The primary aim of this study was to identify factors in adipose tissue that may underlie low vs. high rates of fatty acid mobilization in a relatively homogeneous cohort of obese adults. We measured systemic fatty acid rate of appearance (FA Ra) via 13C-palmitate isotope dilution, and we obtained subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue samples from 30 obese adults (BMI: 38 ± 1 kg/m2, age: 30 ± 2 yr) after an overnight fast. We then measured insulin sensitivity using a hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp. Confirming our previous work, insulin sensitivity was inversely proportional to FA Ra (R2 = 0.50; P < 0.001). Immunoblot analysis of subcutaneous adipose tissue samples revealed that, compared with obese adults with high FA Ra, those with low FA Ra had lower markers of lipase activation and higher abundance of glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase, which is a primary enzyme for fatty acid esterification. Microarray and pathway analysis provided evidence of lower fibrosis and lower SAPK/JNK pathway activation in obese adults with low FA Ra compared with those with high FA Ra. Our findings suggest that alterations in factors regulating triglyceride storage in adipose tissue, along with lower fibrosis and inflammatory pathway activation, may underlie maintenance of a relatively low FA Ra in obesity, which may help protect against the development of insulin resistance.

Keywords: adipose tissue; fatty acid metabolism; healthy obesity; insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • Glucose Clamp Technique
  • Glycerol-3-Phosphate O-Acyltransferase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Inflammation
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Lipase / metabolism
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Male
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal / metabolism*
  • Subcutaneous Fat, Abdominal / pathology


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Fatty Acids
  • Glycerol-3-Phosphate O-Acyltransferase
  • Lipase