Is adipose tissue metabolically different at different sites?

Angel Gil, Josune Olza, Mercedes Gil-Campos, Carolina Gomez-Llorente, Concepción M Aguilera
International Journal of Pediatric Obesity: IJPO 2011, 6: 13-20
This review focuses on metabolic differences of adipose tissue at different sites of the body, with emphasis in pediatrics. Adipose tissue is composed of various cell types, which include adipocytes and other cells of the stromal vascular fraction such as preadipocytes, blood cells, endothelial cells and macrophages. Mammals have two main types of adipose tissue: white adipose tissue (WAT), and brown adipose tissue (BAT), each of which possesses unique cell autonomous properties. WAT and BAT differ at the functional, as well as the morphological and molecular levels. WAT accumulates surplus energy mainly in the form of triacylglycerols and BAT dissipates energy directly as heat. Recently, functional BAT in humans has been located in the neck, supraclavicular, mediastinal and interscapular areas. WAT is distributed throughout the body in the form of two major types: subcutaneous adipose tissue (SWAT) and the intra-abdominal visceral adipose tissue (VWAT). VWAT tissue is associated with insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidaemia, hypertension, atherosclerosis, hepatic steatosis, and overall mortality whereas SWAT and BAT have intrinsic beneficial metabolic properties. Subcutaneous and visceral adipocytes derive from different progenitor cells that exhibit a different gene expression pattern. SWAT responds better to the antilipolytic effects of insulin and other hormones, secrets more adiponectin and less inflammatory cytokines, and is differentially affected by molecules involved in signal transduction as well as drugs compared with VWAT. Current research is investigating various approaches of BAT and SWAT transplantation, including new sources of adipocyte progenitors. This may be important for the potential treatment of childhood obesity.

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