Aerobic exercise elevates markers of angiogenesis and macrophage IL-6 gene expression in the subcutaneous adipose tissue of overweight-to-obese adults

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017 Nov 1;123(5):1150-1159. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00614.2017. Epub 2017 Aug 10.


Alterations in the inflammatory state, metabolic function, and structure of subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) can impact the development of insulin resistance in obesity. Exercise can improve metabolic health in obesity, but the effects of exercise on SAT are not well known. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of acute exercise and habitual exercise training on mRNA expression of markers of lipid metabolism, inflammation, fibrosis, and hypoxia/angiogenesis in SAT, as well as adipocyte cell size. We recruited overweight-to-obese adults who exercised regularly (ACTIVE: n = 8) or were sedentary (SED: n = 12). The groups were well matched for age (27 ± 1 vs. 24 ± 2 yr), body mass index (29 ± 1 vs. 27 ± 1 kg/m2), and body composition (30 ± 1 vs. 29 ± 1% body fat), but as expected, cardiorespiratory fitness was greater in ACTIVE vs. SED (V̇o2peak: 51 ± 3 vs. 42 ± 1 ml·kg fat-free mass-1·min-1; P = 0.01). Abdominal SAT biopsy samples were obtained before and 1 h after a single session of aerobic exercise (60 min at ~65% V̇o2peak). The exercise session increased SAT mRNA expression of VEGFA, an important regulator of angiogenic processes, in both groups. In addition, SAT from ACTIVE subjects had greater mRNA expression of the endothelial cell marker CD31 compared with SED, which may be a cumulative effect of the transient increases in VEGFA with regular exercise. We also magnetically sorted CD14+ immune cells from SAT samples and found that IL-6 expression was elevated in ACTIVE compared with SED. In conclusion, exercise initiates increases in factors related to angiogenic processes and may promote alterations in macrophage inflammation in SAT.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Acute exercise in overweight/obese adults increased subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) mRNA expression of VEGFA, an important regulator of angiogenesis and capillary growth. In addition, subjects that regularly exercise had elevated SAT CD31 mRNA expression and elevated IL-6 mRNA in adipose tissue macrophages compared with nonexercisers. This study demonstrates that aerobic exercise may alter processes related to whole body metabolic outcomes in obesity, such as angiogenesis and immune response, in the SAT of overweight/obese adults.

Keywords: adipose tissue; angiogenesis; exercise; inflammation; metabolic health.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-6 / genetics
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism*
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / genetics
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / metabolism
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic*
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 / genetics
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 / metabolism
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Subcutaneous Fat / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / genetics
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism*
  • Young Adult


  • IL6 protein, human
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Interleukin-6
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1
  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A