Duodenal adipose tissue is associated with obesity in baboons (Papio sp): a novel site of ectopic fat deposition in non-human primates

Acta Diabetol. 2019 Feb;56(2):227-236. doi: 10.1007/s00592-019-01286-w. Epub 2019 Jan 23.


Aims: Ectopic fat is a recognized contributor to insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction, while the role of fat deposition inside intestinal wall tissue remains understudied. We undertook this study to directly quantify and localize intramural fat deposition in duodenal tissue and determine its association with adiposity.

Methods: Duodenal tissues were collected from aged (21.2 ± 1.3 years, 19.5 ± 3.1 kg, n = 39) female baboons (Papio sp.). Fasted blood was collected for metabolic profiling and abdominal circumference (AC) measurements were taken. Primary tissue samples were collected at the major duodenal papilla at necropsy: one full cross section was processed for hematoxylin and eosin staining and evaluated; a second full cross section was processed for direct chemical lipid analysis on which percentage duodenal fat content was calculated.

Results: Duodenal fat content obtained by direct tissue quantification showed considerable variability (11.95 ± 6.93%) and was correlated with AC (r = 0.60, p < 0.001), weight (r = 0.38, p = 0.02), leptin (r = 0.63, p < 0.001), adiponectin (r = - 0.32, p < 0.05), and triglyceride (r = 0.41, p = 0.01). The relationship between duodenal fat content and leptin remained after adjusting for body weight and abdominal circumference. Intramural adipocytes were found in duodenal sections from all animals and were localized to the submucosa. Consistent with the variation in tissue fat content, the submucosal adipocytes were non-uniformly distributed in clusters of varying size. Duodenal adipocytes were larger in obese vs. lean animals (106.9 vs. 66.7 µm2, p = 0.02).

Conclusions: Fat accumulation inside the duodenal wall is strongly associated with adiposity and adiposity related circulating biomarkers in baboons. Duodenal tissue fat represents a novel and potentially metabolically active site of ectopic fat deposition.

Keywords: Adipose tissue; Baboons; Duodenum; Ectopic fat deposition; Gastrointestinal tract; Insuline resistance; Non human primates.

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / blood
  • Adiposity*
  • Animals
  • Duodenum / pathology*
  • Female
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / metabolism
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / pathology*
  • Leptin / blood
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Papio
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Adiponectin
  • Leptin
  • Triglycerides