Healthy Subcutaneous and Omental Adipose Tissue Is Associated with High Expression of Extracellular Matrix Components

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jan 4;23(1):520. doi: 10.3390/ijms23010520.


Obesity is associated with extensive expansion and remodeling of the adipose tissue architecture, including its microenvironment and extracellular matrix (ECM). Although obesity has been reported to induce adipose tissue fibrosis, the composition of the ECM under healthy physiological conditions has remained underexplored and debated. Here, we used a combination of three established techniques (picrosirius red staining, a colorimetric hydroxyproline assay, and sensitive gene expression measurements) to evaluate the status of the ECM in metabolically healthy lean (MHL) and metabolically unhealthy obese (MUO) subjects. We investigated ECM deposition in the two major human adipose tissues, namely the omental and subcutaneous depots. Biopsies were obtained from the same anatomic region of respective individuals. We found robust ECM deposition in MHL subjects, which correlated with high expression of collagens and enzymes involved in ECM remodeling. In contrast, MUO individuals showed lower expression of ECM components but elevated levels of ECM cross-linking and adhesion proteins, e.g., lysyl oxidase and thrombospondin. Our data suggests that subcutaneous fat is more prone to express proteins involved in ECM remodeling than omental adipose tissues. We conclude that a more dynamic ability to deposit and remodel ECM may be a key signature of healthy adipose tissue, and that subcutaneous fat may adapt more readily to changing metabolic conditions than omental fat.

Keywords: ECM remodeling; adipose tissue; adipose tissue fibrosis; cardiometabolic disease; extracellular matrix; fibrosis; metabolic health; metabolically unhealthy obese; obesity.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Omentum / metabolism*
  • Organ Specificity / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Subcutaneous Fat / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Collagen