Deciphering adipose tissue heterogeneity

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2018 Jan;1411(1):5-20. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13398. Epub 2017 Aug 1.


Obesity is an excess accumulation of adipose tissue mass, and, together with its sequelae, in particular type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome, obesity presents a major health crisis. Although obesity is simply caused by increased adipose mass, the heterogeneity of adipose tissue in humans means that the response to increased energy balance is highly complex. Individual subjects with similar phenotypes may respond very differently to the same treatments; therefore, obesity may benefit from a personalized precision medicine approach. The variability in the development of obesity is indeed driven by differences in sex, genetics, and environment, but also by the various types of adipose tissue as well as the different cell types that compose it. By describing the distinct cell populations that reside in different fat depots, we can interpret the complex effect of these various players in the maintenance of whole-body energy homeostasis. To further understand adipose tissue, adipogenic differentiation and the transcriptional program of lipid accumulation must be investigated. As the cell- and depot-specific functions are described, they can be placed in the context of energy excess to understand how the heterogeneity of adipose tissue shapes individual metabolic status and condition.

Keywords: adipocyte; adipose tissue; cellular heterogeneity; preadipocyte.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / classification
  • Adipocytes / pathology
  • Adipogenesis
  • Adipose Tissue / blood supply
  • Adipose Tissue / immunology
  • Adipose Tissue / innervation
  • Adipose Tissue / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Endothelial Cells / pathology
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipolysis
  • Macrophages / classification
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / pathology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Sex Characteristics