Adipocyte hypertrophy and lipid dynamics underlie mammary gland remodeling after lactation

Nat Commun. 2018 Sep 4;9(1):3592. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05911-0.


Adipocytes undergo pronounced changes in size and behavior to support diverse tissue functions, but the mechanisms that control these changes are not well understood. Mammary gland-associated white adipose tissue (mgWAT) regresses in support of milk fat production during lactation and expands during the subsequent involution of milk-producing epithelial cells, providing one of the most marked physiological examples of adipose growth. We examined cellular mechanisms and functional implications of adipocyte and lipid dynamics in the mouse mammary gland (MG). Using in vivo analysis of adipocyte precursors and genetic tracing of mature adipocytes, we find mature adipocyte hypertrophy to be a primary mechanism of mgWAT expansion during involution. Lipid tracking and lipidomics demonstrate that adipocytes fill with epithelial-derived milk lipid. Furthermore, ablation of mgWAT during involution reveals an essential role for adipocytes in milk trafficking from, and proper restructuring of, the mammary epithelium. This work advances our understanding of MG remodeling and tissue-specific roles for adipocytes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology*
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adipocytes, White / cytology
  • Adipocytes, White / physiology
  • Animals
  • Breast Feeding
  • Cell Size
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / cytology*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / physiology
  • Mammary Glands, Human / cytology*
  • Mammary Glands, Human / physiology
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Pregnancy


  • Fatty Acids