Intrinsic Differences in Adipocyte Precursor Cells From Different White Fat Depots

  1. C. Ronald Kahn
  1. Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  1. Corresponding author: C. Ronald Kahn, c.ronald.kahn{at}


Obesity and body fat distribution are important risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Evidence has accumulated that this risk is related to intrinsic differences in behavior of adipocytes in different fat depots. In the current study, we demonstrate that adipocyte precursor cells (APCs) isolated from visceral and subcutaneous white adipose depots of mice have distinct patterns of gene expression, differentiation potential, and response to environmental and genetic influences. APCs derived from subcutaneous fat differentiate well in the presence of classical induction cocktail, whereas those from visceral fat differentiate poorly but can be induced to differentiate by addition of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-2 or BMP-4. This difference correlates with major differences in gene expression signature between subcutaneous and visceral APCs. The number of APCs is higher in obesity-prone C57BL/6 mice than obesity-resistant 129 mice, and the number in both depots is increased by up to 270% by exposure of mice to high-fat diet. Thus, APCs from visceral and subcutaneous depots are dynamic populations, which have intrinsic differences in gene expression, differentiation properties, and responses to environmental/genetic factors. Regulation of these populations may provide a new target for the treatment and prevention of obesity and its metabolic complications.

  • Received December 19, 2011.
  • Accepted March 5, 2012.

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