The presence of adipocytes in mammalian bone marrow (BM) has been recognized histologically for decades, yet, until recently, these cells have received little attention from the research community. Advancements in mouse transgenics and imaging methods, particularly in the last 10 years, have permitted more detailed examinations of marrow adipocytes than ever before and yielded data that show these cells are critical regulators of the BM microenvironment and whole-body metabolism. Indeed, marrow adipocytes are anatomically and functionally separate from brown, beige, and classic white adipocytes. Thus, areas of BM space populated by adipocytes can be considered distinct fat depots and are collectively referred to as marrow adipose tissue (MAT) in this review. In the proceeding text, we focus on the developmental origin and physiologic functions of MAT. We also discuss the signals that cause the accumulation and loss of marrow adipocytes and the ability of these cells to regulate other cell lineages in the BM. Last, we consider roles for MAT in human physiology and disease.
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