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Adipocyte Function

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Acute Exercise Remodels Promoter Methylation in Human Skeletal Muscle.

Cell Metabolism, Volume 15, Issue 3, 405-411, 7 March 2012

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White adipose tissue is important for maintaining energy metabolism of the organism by storing excess energy as lipid. Its function can be grouped into three main categories with potentially overlapping mechanisms: lipid metabolism, glucose metabolism and endocrine functions (Fig. 1). Adipose tissue is made up from a variety of different cells. The most prominent fraction are mature adipocytes which store and release lipids in response to circulating hormones. For several decades, it was thought that adipose tissue and constituent adipocyte function was restricted to the storage and release of fat. However, in the past years it has become clear that adipocytes not only serve to store energy but directly influence whole-body energy homeostasis through exocrine signaling proteins that regulate various processes such as blood pressure, immune function, angiogenesis and energy balance.

Fig. 1 Mature Adipocyte Function

Another reason for the specific interest in adipocyte biology is the realization that we are in the early stages of a global wave of obesity with the consequent increase in associated morbidity and mortality. Adipocytes are found in distinct depots throughout the body, however they can also be found mixed with different cell types in other locations, especially in loose connective tissue. There are two types of adipocytes, brown and white, which differ in several important properties. Even among white adipocytes, cells from different locations can have distinct molecular and physiological properties. For example, increased visceral adipose tissue is associated with an increased risk of insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease, whereas increased subcutaneous adipose tissue is not. Furthermore adipocyte size has been linked to an increased risk of metabolic complications such as Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disorders (Fig. 2). The research of our group focuses on understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms leading to the development of large vs. small adipocytes as well as the intrinsic differences of these cell types.

Fig. 2 Adipocyte Size and the Metabolic Syndrome

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