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J Nutr. 2000 Dec;130(12):3122S-3126S.

Adipocyte differentiation and gene expression.

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Departments of Biochemistry and Nutritional Sciences, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The major function of adipocytes is to store triacylglycerol in periods of energy excess and to mobilize this energy during times of deprivation. The short-term control of these lipogenic and lipolytic processes is carefully modulated by hormonal signals from the bloodstream, which provide an inventory of the body's metabolic state. Long-term changes in fat storage needs are accomplished by altering both the size and number of fat cells within the body because terminally differentiated adipocytes cannot divide. Alterations in the number of fat cells within the body must be accomplished by the differentiation of preadipocytes, which act as the renewable source of adipocytes. Our understanding of the events that occur during preadipocyte differentiation has advanced considerably in the last few years and has relied mainly on the use of tissue culture models of adipogenesis. This article will discuss the various models used for studying the preadipocyte differentiation process, with the mouse 3T3-L1 cell culture line described in detail. We focus on those genetic events that link effectors to induction of adipocyte gene expression.

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