Sex differences on adipose tissue remodeling: from molecular mechanisms to therapeutic interventions

J Mol Med (Berl). 2020 Apr;98(4):483-493. doi: 10.1007/s00109-020-01890-2. Epub 2020 Mar 10.


Sexual dimorphism greatly influences adipose tissue remodeling, which is characterized by changes in the activity, number, and/or size of adipocytes in response to distinct stimuli, including lifestyle and anti-obesity drugs. This sex dependence seems to be due to the anatomical and endocrine disparities between men and women. At the molecular level, sex hormones are believed to mediate such differences and involve estrogen and androgen receptor-induced gene expression. The signaling pathways that regulate adipose tissue metabolism and function include peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma, uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), 5' adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), and mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), among other molecular players. Sex hormone-related pathways also interplay with adrenergic signaling, probably the most well-characterized molecular mechanism implicated in the remodeling of white adipose tissue. This review overviews and integrates the signaling pathways behind sexual dimorphism in adipose tissue remodeling, hoping to increase the knowledge on the pathogenesis of diseases, such as obesity and related comorbidities, and consequently, to drive future studies to investigate the regulation of this tissue homeostasis, either in men or women.

Keywords: Adipose tissue; Metabolic remodeling; Norepinephrine signaling; Sex hormones.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology*
  • Adipocytes / drug effects
  • Adipocytes / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / anatomy & histology
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue, White / anatomy & histology
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism
  • Adiposity
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Size
  • Disease Management
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Factors
  • Signal Transduction


  • Biomarkers
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones