Adipocytes are lipid-rich parenchymal cells contained in a very plastic organ, whose composition can undergo striking physiologic changes. In standard conditions the organ contains white and brown adipocytes which play opposite roles: lipid storage to meet metabolic requirements and lipid burning for thermogenesis, respectively. During chronic cold exposure, white adipocytes transdifferentiate to brown, to increase thermogenesis, whereas in conditions of chronic positive energy balance brown adipocytes transdifferentiate to white, to increase energy stores. During pregnancy, lactation, and post-lactation, subcutaneous white adipocytes convert to milk-producing glands formed by lipid-rich elements that can be defined as pink adipocytes. Recent fate-mapping data support the conversion of pink to brown adipocytes and the reversible conversion of brown adipocytes to myoepithelial cells of alveoli.
Keywords: adipocytes; brown; mammary gland; pink; transdifferentiation; white.
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