Reduced Gluteal Expression of Adipogenic and Lipogenic Genes in Black South African Women Is Associated with Obesity-Related Insulin Resistance

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Black South African women are less insulin sensitive than their White counterparts, despite less central and greater peripheral fat deposition. We hypothesized that this paradox may be explained, in part, by differences in the adipogenic capacity of sc adipose tissue (SAT).


Our objective was to measure adipogenic and lipogenic gene expression in abdominal and gluteal SAT depots and determine their relationships with insulin sensitivity (SI) in South African women.

Participants and Design:

Fourteen normal-weight [body mass index (BMI) <25 kg/m2] Black, 13 normal-weight White, 14 obese (BMI >30 kg/m2) Black, and 13 obese White premenopausal South African women participated in this cross-sectional study.

Main outcomes:

SI (frequently sampled iv glucose tolerance test) in relation to expression of adipogenic and lipogenic genes in abdominal and gluteal SAT depots.


With increasing BMI, Black women had less visceral fat (P = 0.03) and more abdominal (P = 0.017) and gynoid (P = 0.041) SAT but had lower SI (P < 0.01) than White women. The expression of adipogenic and lipogenic genes was proportionately lower with obesity in Black but not White women in the gluteal and deep SAT depots (P < 0.05 for ethnicity × BMI effect). In Black women only, the expression of these genes correlated positively with SI (all P < 0.05), independently of age and fat mass.


Obese Black women have reduced SAT expression of adipogenic and lipogenic genes compared with White women, which associates with reduced SI. These findings suggest that obesity in Black women impairs SAT adipogenesis and storage, potentially leading to insulin resistance and increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

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