Catecholamine resistance in fat cells of women with upper-body obesity due to decreased expression of beta 2-adrenoceptors

Diabetologia. 1994 Apr;37(4):428-35. doi: 10.1007/BF00408482.


Upper-body obesity is an important risk factor for developing non-insulin dependent diabetes. To investigate the possibility that a lipolysis defect is present in this form of obesity, we examined the adrenergic regulation of lipolysis in abdominal subcutaneous fat cells from 25 women with upper-body obesity and 24 non-obese women. Lipolytic noradrenaline sensitivity (but not the maximum rate of lipolysis) was reduced by 10-fold in obese women (p < 0.01). The noradrenaline resistance could be ascribed to a 10-fold decrease in lipolytic beta 2-adrenoceptor sensitivity (p < 0.01). The lipolytic sensitivity of beta 1- and alpha 2-adrenergic receptors was normal in the obese women. A 70% reduction in the cell surface density of beta 2-adrenoceptors was observed compared to the control subjects (p < 0.01). However, beta 1-receptor density as well as steady-state mRNA levels for beta 1- and beta 2-receptors were normal in obese women. Lipolytic noradrenaline sensitivity correlated inversely with BMI (adjusted r2 = 0.76 together with fat cell volume in stepwise regression analysis). The fasting plasma level of free cortisol was 30% lower in obese compared to non-obese women (p < 0.05) but obesity did not influence resting plasma catecholamine levels. Thus, lipolytic catecholamine resistance is present in abdominal obesity, due to low density of beta 2-adrenoceptors, which in its turn may be caused by a post-transcriptional defect in beta 2-receptor expression.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen
  • Adipocytes / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Catecholamines / pharmacology*
  • Cell Count
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipolysis / drug effects
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / pathology
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-1 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2 / metabolism*


  • Catecholamines
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-1
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2