Over the past decade, great progress has been made in understanding the complexity of adipose tissue biology and its role in metabolism. This includes new insights into the multiple layers of adipose tissue heterogeneity, not only differences between white and brown adipocytes, but also differences in white adipose tissue at the depot level and even heterogeneity of white adipocytes within a single depot. These inter- and intra-depot differences in adipocytes are developmentally programmed and contribute to the wide range of effects observed in disorders with fat excess (overweight/obesity) or fat loss (lipodystrophy). Recent studies also highlight the underappreciated dynamic nature of adipose tissue, including potential to undergo rapid turnover and dedifferentiation and as a source of stem cells. Finally, we explore the rapidly expanding field of adipose tissue as an endocrine organ, and how adipose tissue communicates with other tissues to regulate systemic metabolism both centrally and peripherally through secretion of adipocyte-derived peptide hormones, inflammatory mediators, signaling lipids, and miRNAs packaged in exosomes. Together these attributes and complexities create a robust, multidimensional signaling network that is central to metabolic homeostasis.
C. Ronald Kahn, Guoxiao Wang, Kevin Y. Lee
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