Autonomic nerves and perivascular fat: Interactive mechanisms

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The evidence describing the autonomic innervation of body fat is reviewed with a particular focus on the role of the sympathetic neurotransmitters. In compiling the evidence, a strong case emerges for the interaction between autonomic nerves and perivascular adipose tissue (PVAT). Adipocytes have been shown to express receptors for neurotransmitters released from nearby sympathetic varicosities such as adrenoceptors (ARs), purinoceptors and receptors for neuropeptide Y (NPY). Noradrenaline can modulate both lipolysis (via α2- and β3-ARs) and lipogenesis (via α1- and β3-ARs). ATP can inhibit lipolysis (via P1 purinoceptors) or stimulate lipolysis (via P2y purinoceptors). NPY, which can be produced by adipocytes and sympathetic nerves, inhibits lipolysis. Thus the sympathetic triad of transmitters can influence adipocyte free fatty acid (FFA) content. Substance P (SP) released from sensory nerves has also been shown to promote lipolysis. Therefore, we propose a mechanism whereby sympathetic neurotransmission can simultaneously activate smooth muscle cells in the tunica media to cause vasoconstriction and alter FFA content and release from adjacent adipocytes in PVAT. The released FFA can influence endothelial function. Adipocytes also release a range of vasoactive substances, both relaxing and contractile factors, including adiponectin and reactive oxygen species. The action of adipokines (such as adiponectin) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) on cells of the vascular adventitia and nerves has yet to be fully elucidated. We hypothesise a strong link between PVAT and autonomic fibres and suggest that this poorly understood relationship is extremely important for normal vascular function and warrants a detailed study.

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