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What makes adipocytes grow in size and what limits their size growth

Posted by isabelaz on 23 Apr 2009 at 10:08 GMT

This mathematical modeling study on the evolution of the adipose cell-size distributions as a function of the increasing fat pad mass [1] provides a series of important and interesting results. First of all, it shows that what makes adipocytes grow in size is diet, independent of genetics. As adipocyte hypertrophy is indisputably related with metabolic dysfunction [2], this finding reinforces the pathogenical character of high-fat diets. It would be of enormous interest to repeat the study with a hypercaloric carbohydrate enriched diet, given that fat has specific metabolic and signaling effects, and the role of hypercaloric ingestion per se does not result clear from this model.
Heterogeneous phenotype of adipocytes, as indicated by a dramatic spreading of their size distribution under high-fat diet conditions is in good agreement with what we observe in histological sections from obese human adipose tissue biopsies [3] and confirms a recent investigation on adipogenesis phenotypic variability [4].
In spite of the different dynamic characteristics of adipose tissue growth in the two mice strains, the largest adipocyte size observed, under high-fat diet, was the same. This fact is compatible with a limited adipocyte expandability hypothesis, cell rupture becoming too facile with increasing size [3, 5]. This should be taken into consideration when accounting for adipocyte death.


[1] Jo J, Gavrilova O, Pack S, Jou W, Mullen S, et al. (2009) Hypertrophy and/or Hyperplasia: Dynamics of Adipose Tissue Growth. PLoS Comput Biol 5(3): e1000324. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000324

[2] de Ferranti S and Mozaffarian D (2008) The perfect storm: obesity, adipocyte dysfunction, and metabolic consequences. Clin Chem 54, 945-955.

[3] Monteiro R, de Castro PM, Calhau C, Azevedo I (2006) Adipocyte size and liability to cell death. Obes Surg 16, 804-806.

[4] Le TT, Cheng J-X (2009) Single-Cell Profiling Reveals the Origin of Phenotypic Variability in Adipogenesis. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5189. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005189

[5] Azevedo I, Monteiro R, Calhau C, Alçada MNMP (2008) Don't fill adipocytes beyond their capacity. PLoS Biol 6 (9): e237 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060237#r2382

Rosário Monteiro, Conceição Calhau, Manuel MNP Alçada, Isabel Azevedo
Depart Biochemistry, Fac. Medicine, University of Porto, Portugal

No competing interests declared.