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Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2010 Apr;6(4):225-35. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2010.18. Epub 2010 Mar 2.

SPARC: a key player in the pathologies associated with obesity and diabetes.

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  • 1Department of Diabetes and Vascular Medicine, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter, Exeter EX2 5DW, UK.


SPARC (secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine, also known as osteonectin or BM-40) is a widely expressed profibrotic protein with pleiotropic roles, which have been studied in a variety of conditions. Notably, SPARC is linked to human obesity; SPARC derived from adipose tissue is associated with insulin resistance and secretion of SPARC by adipose tissue is increased by insulin and the adipokine leptin. Furthermore, SPARC is associated with diabetes complications such as diabetic retinopathy and nephropathy, conditions that are ameliorated in the Sparc-knockout mouse model. As a regulator of the extracellular matrix, SPARC also contributes to adipose-tissue fibrosis. Evidence suggests that adipose tissue becomes increasingly fibrotic in obesity. Fibrosis of subcutaneous adipose tissue may restrict accumulation of triglycerides in this type of tissue. These triglycerides are, therefore, diverted and deposited as ectopic lipids in other tissues such as the liver or as intramyocellular lipids in skeletal muscle, which predisposes to insulin resistance. Hence, SPARC may represent a novel and important link between obesity and diabetes mellitus. This Review is focused on whether SPARC could be a key player in the pathology of obesity and its related metabolic complications.

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