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Diabetes. 2007 Jun;56(6):1517-26. Epub 2007 Mar 27.

Adipogenesis in obesity requires close interplay between differentiating adipocytes, stromal cells, and blood vessels.

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  • 1Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan.



The expansion of adipose tissue mass seen in obesity involves both hyperplasia and hypertrophy of adipocytes. However, little is known about how adipocytes, adipocyte precursors, blood vessels, and stromal cells interact with one another to achieve adipogenesis.


We have developed a confocal microscopy-based method of three-dimensional visualization of intact living adipose tissue that enabled us to simultaneously evaluate angiogenesis and adipogenesis in db/db mice.


We found that adipocyte differentiation takes place within cell clusters (which we designated adipogenic/angiogenic cell clusters) that contain multiple cell types, including endothelial cells and stromal cells that express CD34 and CD68 and bind lectin. There were close spatial and temporal interrelationships between blood vessel formation and adipogenesis, and the sprouting of new blood vessels from preexisting vasculature was coupled to adipocyte differentiation. CD34(+) CD68(+) lectin-binding cells could clearly be distinguished from CD34(-) CD68(+) macrophages, which were scattered in the stroma and did not bind lectin. Adipogenic/angiogenic cell clusters can morphologically and immunohistochemically be distinguished from crown-like structures frequently seen in the late stages of adipose tissue obesity. Administration of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) antibodies inhibited not only angiogenesis but also the formation of adipogenic/angiogenic cell clusters, indicating that the coupling of adipogenesis and angiogenesis is essential for differentiation of adipocytes in obesity and that VEGF is a key mediator of that process.


Living tissue imaging techniques provide novel evidence of the dynamic interactions between differentiating adipocytes, stromal cells, and angiogenesis in living obese adipose tissue.

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