Regional Differences in Adipose Tissue Metabolism in Women: Minor Effect of Obesity and Body Fat Distribution

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Studies comparing adipose tissue metabolism in central versus peripheral fat depots have generated equivocal data. We examined whether regional differences in abdominal subcutaneous and omental adipose tissue metabolism in women exist and whether they persist across the spectrum of body fatness and abdominal adiposity values. We measured adipocyte size; lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity; and basal, isoproterenol-, forskolin-, and dibutyryl cAMP–stimulated lipolysis in adipose tissue or mature adipocytes isolated from the omental and subcutaneous fat depots in a sample of 55 healthy women undergoing elective gynecological surgery. Measures of body fat mass and body fat distribution were also obtained by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and computed tomography. Subcutaneous adipocytes were significantly larger than omental adipocytes (P < 0.0001). LPL activity expressed as a function of cell number was significantly higher in subcutaneous versus omental adipose tissue (P < 0.0001). Basal, isoproterenol-stimulated, dibutyryl cAMP–stimulated (10−3 mol/l) and forskolin-stimulated (10−5 mol/l) lipolysis (expressed as a function of cell number) were all significantly higher in subcutaneous versus omental adipocytes (P < 0.05 to P < 0.0001). However, the response of omental adipocytes to lipolytic stimuli tested (fold increase over basal level) was significantly greater in magnitude compared with subcutaneous adipocytes (P < 0.01). These differences were relatively constant across total body fat mass and visceral adipose tissue area tertiles. In conclusion, compared with adipocytes from the omental fat compartment, subcutaneous adipocytes are larger, have higher LPL activity, and are more lipolytic on an absolute basis, which may reflect a higher fat storage capacity in this depot in women. In contrast, omental adipocytes display greater relative responsiveness to both adrenergic receptor–and postreceptor-acting agents compared with subcutaneous adipocytes. Overall and visceral obesity have only minor effects on regional differences in adipose tissue metabolism.

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