Adipose Tissue

From Lipid Storage Compartment to Endocrine Organ

  1. Philipp E. Scherer
  1. Cell Biology and Medicine, Diabetes Research and Training Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Departments of Cell Biology and Medicine, Diabetes Research and Training Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Ave., Bronx, NY 10461. E-mail: scherer{at}aecom.yu.edu

Abstract

Adipose tissue, when carried around in excessive amounts, predisposes to a large number of diseases. Epidemiological data show that the prevalence of obesity has significantly increased over the past 20 years and continues to do so at an alarming rate. Here, some molecular aspects of the key constituent of adipose tissue, the adipocyte, are reviewed. While the adipocyte has been studied for many years and remarkable insights have been gained about some processes, many areas of the physiology of the fat cell remain unexplored. Our understanding of how cellular events in the adipocyte affect the local environment through paracrine interactions and how systemic effects are achieved through endocrine interactions is rudimentary. While storage and release of lipids are major functions of adipocytes, the adipocyte also uses specific lipid molecules for intracellular signaling and uses a host of protein factors to communicate with essentially every organ system in the body. The intensity and complexity of these signals are highly regulated, differ in each fat pad, and are dramatically affected by various disease states.

Footnotes

  • DOI: 10.2337/db06-0263

    • Accepted March 20, 2006.
    • Received February 23, 2006.
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