Mature Human White Adipocytes Cultured under Membranes Maintain Identity, Function, and Can Transdifferentiate into Brown-like Adipocytes

Cell Rep. 2019 Apr 2;27(1):213-225.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.03.026.


White adipose tissue (WAT) is a central factor in the development of type 2 diabetes, but there is a paucity of translational models to study mature adipocytes. We describe a method for the culture of mature white adipocytes under a permeable membrane. Compared to existing culture methods, MAAC (membrane mature adipocyte aggregate cultures) better maintain adipogenic gene expression, do not dedifferentiate, display reduced hypoxia, and remain functional after long-term culture. Subcutaneous and visceral adipocytes cultured as MAAC retain depot-specific gene expression, and adipocytes from both lean and obese patients can be cultured. Importantly, we show that rosiglitazone treatment or PGC1α overexpression in mature white adipocytes induces a brown fat transcriptional program, providing direct evidence that human adipocytes can transdifferentiate into brown-like adipocytes. Together, these data show that MAAC are a versatile tool for studying phenotypic changes of mature adipocytes and provide an improved translational model for drug development.

Keywords: BAT; MAAC; UCP1; WAT; adipocyte; brown adipose; culture; transdifferentiation; white adipose.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes, Brown / cytology
  • Adipocytes, Brown / physiology*
  • Adipocytes, White / cytology*
  • Adipocytes, White / physiology*
  • Adipogenesis / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Transdifferentiation* / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Mice
  • Primary Cell Culture / methods*
  • RAW 264.7 Cells


  • Membranes, Artificial