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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Nov;20(11):2213-9. doi: 10.1038/oby.2012.138. Epub 2012 Jun 7.

Increased death of adipose cells, a path to release cell-free DNA into systemic circulation of obese women.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, MetroHealth Medical Center Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

Erratum in

  • Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Nov;20(11):2321.


Remodeling of adipose tissue is required to support the expansion of adipose mass. In obesity, an increased death of adipocytes contributes to the accelerated cellular turnover. We have shown that obesity in pregnancy is associated with metabolic and immune alterations in the adipose tissue. In this study, we characterized the mechanisms responsible for increased death of adipose cells of pregnant obese women and its functional consequences. We postulated that a higher turnover of dead cells in white adipose tissue of obese women would translate into release of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) into their systemic circulation. Increase in adipose mass of obese compared to lean women results from a lesser number of hypertrophic adipocytes and an accumulation of macrophages in the stromal vascular fraction (SVF). The adipocytes of obese displayed enhanced necrosis with a loss of perilipin staining at the plasma membrane. Apoptosis was prominent in SVF cells with an increased expression of caspase 9 and caspase 3 and a higher rate of terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate nick end-labeling (TUNEL) positive CD68 macrophages in obese vs. lean. Whereas circulating fetal cfDNA concentrations were not changed, there was a twofold increase in circulating glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) cfDNA and adipose tissue GAPDH mRNA in obese women. The maternal systemic GAPDH cfDNA was positively correlated with BMI and gestational weight gain. These data suggest that the active remodeling of adipose tissue of obese pregnant women results in an increased release of cfDNA of maternal origin into the circulation.

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