Adipocyte-hepatocyte crosstalk in cellular models of obesity: Role of soluble factors

Life Sci. 2023 Mar 15:317:121464. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2023.121464. Epub 2023 Jan 31.


Hepatic steatosis is often a consequence of obesity. Adipose tissue is an important endocrine regulator of metabolic homeostasis in the body. In obesity, adipocytes become hypertrophic and develop an inflammatory phenotype, altering the panel of secreted adipokines. Moreover, excess fatty acids are, in part, released by adipocytes and delivered to the liver. These multiple pathways of adipose-liver crosstalk contribute to the development and progression of liver disease: TNFα induces hepatocyte dysfunction, excess of circulating fatty acids promotes hepatic steatosis and inflammation, whilst adipokines mediate and exacerbate liver injury. In this study, we investigated in vitro the effects and mechanisms of the crosstalk between adipocytes and hepatocytes, as a function of the different adipocyte status (mature vs hypertrophic) being mediated by soluble factors. We employed the conditioned medium method to test how mature and hypertrophic adipocytes distinctively affect the liver, leading to metabolic dysfunction. The media collected from adipocytes were characterized by high triglyceride content and led to lipid accumulation and fat-dependent dysfunction in hepatocytes. The present findings seem to suggest that, in addition to triglycerides, other soluble mediators, cytokines, are released by mature and hypertrophic adipocytes and influence the metabolic status of liver cells. Understanding the precise factors involved in the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of NAFLD in obesity will provide important insights into the mechanisms responsible for the metabolic complications of obesity, paving the way for new possible approaches.

Keywords: Adipocyte hypertrophy; Co-culture; Conditioned medium; Hepatocytes dysfunction; Obesity.

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes* / metabolism
  • Adipokines / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy / metabolism
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Adipokines
  • Fatty Acids
  • Triglycerides