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Compr Physiol. 2018 Sep 14;8(4):1357-1431. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c170042.

Adipose Organ Development and Remodeling.

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Professor of Human Anatomy, Director, Center of Obesity, University of Ancona (Politecnica delle Marche), Ancona, Italy.


During the last decades, research on adipose tissues has spread in parallel with the extension of obesity. Several observations converged on the idea that adipose tissues are organized in a large organ with endocrine and plastic properties. Two parenchymal components: white (WATs) and brown adipose tissues (BATs) are contained in subcutaneous and visceral compartments. Although both have endocrine properties, their function differs: WAT store lipids to allow intervals between meals, BAT burns lipids for thermogenesis. In spite of these opposite functions, they share the ability for reciprocal reversible transdifferentiation to tackle special physiologic needs. Thus, chronic need for thermogenesis induces browning and chronic positive energy balance induce whitening. Lineage tracing and data from explant studies strongly suggest other remodeling properties of this organ. During pregnancy and lactation breast WAT transdifferentiates into milk-secreting glands, composed by cells with abundant cytoplasmic lipids (pink adipocytes) and in the postlactation period pink adipocytes transdifferentiate back into WAT and BAT. The plastic properties of mature adipocytes are supported also by a liposecretion process in vitro where adult cell in culture transdifferentiate to differentiated fibroblast-like elements able to give rise to different phenotypes (rainbow adipocytes). In addition, the inflammasome system is activated in stressed adipocytes from obese adipose tissue. These adipocytes die and debris are reabsorbed by macrophages inducing a chronic low-grade inflammation, potentially contributing to insulin resistance and T2 diabetes. Thus, the plastic properties of this organ could open new therapeutic perspectives in the obesity-related metabolic disease and in breast pathologies. © 2018 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 8:1357-1431, 2018.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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