Obesity often occurs with a quintessential array of metabolic abnormalities: elevations in blood pressure, visceral fat, and circulating blood lipids, and, importantly, insulin resistance. Together, this constellation of conditions constitutes the metabolic syndrome and forecasts an individual’s increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. Although metabolic syndrome presents as dysfunction across multiple tissues, its onset stems from pathological increases in adipose tissue. The 9 review in this series, conceptualized by series editor Philipp Scherer, delve into the complex biology underlying the metabolic syndrome. These reviews address adipocyte and beta cell dysfunction in the metabolic syndrome; the functions of adipose tissue fibrosis, the microbiome, and exosomal communication in obesity; and the concepts we use to define metabolic health.
Although obesity is typically associated with metabolic dysfunction and cardiometabolic diseases, some people with obesity are protected from many of the adverse metabolic effects of excess body fat and are considered “metabolically healthy.” However, there is no universally accepted definition of metabolically healthy obesity (MHO). Most studies define MHO as having either 0, 1, or 2 metabolic syndrome components, whereas many others define MHO using the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR). Therefore, numerous people reported as having MHO are not metabolically healthy, but simply have fewer metabolic abnormalities than those with metabolically unhealthy obesity (MUO). Nonetheless, a small subset of people with obesity have a normal HOMA-IR and no metabolic syndrome components. The mechanism(s) responsible for the divergent effects of obesity on metabolic health is not clear, but studies conducted in rodent models suggest that differences in adipose tissue biology in response to weight gain can cause or prevent systemic metabolic dysfunction. In this article, we review the definition, stability over time, and clinical outcomes of MHO, and discuss the potential factors that could explain differences in metabolic health in people with MHO and MUO — specifically, modifiable lifestyle factors and adipose tissue biology. Better understanding of the factors that distinguish people with MHO and MUO can produce new insights into mechanism(s) responsible for obesity-related metabolic dysfunction and disease.
Gordon I. Smith, Bettina Mittendorfer, Samuel Klein
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
In a society where physical activity is limited and food supply is abundant, metabolic diseases are becoming a serious epidemic. Metabolic syndrome (MetS) represents a cluster of metabolically related symptoms such as obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and carbohydrate intolerance, and significantly increases type 2 diabetes mellitus risk. Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia are consistent characteristics of MetS, but which of these features is the initiating insult is still widely debated. Regardless, both of these conditions trigger adverse responses from the pancreatic β cell, which is responsible for producing, storing, and releasing insulin to maintain glucose homeostasis. The observation that the degree of β cell dysfunction correlates with the severity of MetS highlights the need to better understand β cell dysfunction in the development of MetS. This Review focuses on the current understanding from rodent and human studies of the progression of β cell responses during the development of MetS, as well as recent findings addressing the complexity of β cell identity and heterogeneity within the islet during disease progression. The differential responses observed in β cells together with the heterogeneity in disease phenotypes within the patient population emphasize the need to better understand the mechanisms behind β cell adaptation, identity, and dysfunction in MetS.
Laura I. Hudish, Jane E.B. Reusch, Lori Sussel
Lipodystrophies are the result of a range of inherited and acquired causes, but all are characterized by perturbations in white adipose tissue function and, in many instances, its mass or distribution. Though patients are often nonobese, they typically manifest a severe form of the metabolic syndrome, highlighting the importance of white fat in the “safe” storage of surplus energy. Understanding the molecular pathophysiology of congenital lipodystrophies has yielded useful insights into the biology of adipocytes and informed therapeutic strategies. More recently, genome-wide association studies focused on insulin resistance have linked common variants to genes implicated in adipose biology and suggested that subtle forms of lipodystrophy contribute to cardiometabolic disease risk at a population level. These observations underpin the use of aligned treatment strategies in insulin-resistant obese and lipodystrophic patients, the major goal being to alleviate the energetic burden on adipose tissue.
Jake P. Mann, David B. Savage
The manner in which white adipose tissue (WAT) expands and remodels directly impacts the risk of developing metabolic syndrome in obesity. Preferential accumulation of visceral WAT is associated with increased risk for insulin resistance, whereas subcutaneous WAT expansion is protective. Moreover, pathologic WAT remodeling, typically characterized by adipocyte hypertrophy, chronic inflammation, and fibrosis, is associated with insulin resistance. Healthy WAT expansion, observed in the “metabolically healthy” obese, is generally associated with the presence of smaller and more numerous adipocytes, along with lower degrees of inflammation and fibrosis. Here, we highlight recent human and rodent studies that support the notion that the ability to recruit new fat cells through adipogenesis is a critical determinant of healthy adipose tissue distribution and remodeling in obesity. Furthermore, we discuss recent advances in our understanding of the identity of tissue-resident progenitor populations in WAT made possible through single-cell RNA sequencing analysis. A better understanding of adipose stem cell biology and adipogenesis may lead to novel strategies to uncouple obesity from metabolic disease.
Lavanya Vishvanath, Rana K. Gupta
Obesity originates from an imbalance between caloric intake and energy expenditure that promotes adipose tissue expansion, which is necessary to buffer nutrient excess. Patients with higher visceral fat mass are at a higher risk of developing severe complications such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular and liver diseases. However, increased fat mass does not fully explain obesity’s propensity to promote metabolic diseases. With chronic obesity, adipose tissue undergoes major remodeling, which can ultimately result in unresolved chronic inflammation leading to fibrosis accumulation. These features drive local tissue damage and initiate and/or maintain multiorgan dysfunction. Here, we review the current understanding of adipose tissue remodeling with a focus on obesity-induced adipose tissue fibrosis and its relevance to clinical manifestations.
Geneviève Marcelin, Ana Letícia M. Silveira, Laís Bhering Martins, Adaliene V.M. Ferreira, Karine Clément
Adipose tissue plays important roles in regulating whole-body energy metabolism through its storage function in white adipocytes and its dissipating function in brown and beige adipocytes. Adipose tissue also produces a variety of secreted factors called adipocytokines, including leptin and adiponectin. Furthermore, recent studies have suggested the important roles of extracellular vesicles of endosomal origin termed exosomes, which are secreted from adipocytes and other cells in adipose tissue and influence whole-body glucose and lipid metabolism. Adiponectin is known to be a pleiotropic organ-protective protein that is exclusively produced by adipocytes and decreased in obesity. Adiponectin accumulates in tissues such as heart, muscle, and vascular endothelium through binding with T-cadherin, a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored (GPI-anchored) cadherin. Recently, adiponectin was found to enhance exosome biogenesis and secretion, leading to a decrease in cellular ceramides, excess of which is known to cause insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease phenotypes. These findings support the hypothesis that adipose tissue metabolism systemically regulates exosome production and whole-body metabolism through exosomes. This review focuses on intra-adipose and interorgan communication by exosomes, adiponectin-stimulated exosome production, and their dysregulation in metabolic diseases.
Shunbun Kita, Norikazu Maeda, Iichiro Shimomura
The metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a constellation of risk factors that, if left untreated, will often progress to greater metabolic defects such as type 2 diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. While these risk factors have been established for over 40 years, the definition of MetS warrants reconsideration in light of the substantial data that have emerged from studies of the gut microbiome. In this Review we present the existing recent literature that supports the gut microbiome’s potential influence on the various risk factors of MetS. The interplay of the intestinal microbiota with host metabolism has been shown to be mediated by a myriad of factors, including a defective gut barrier, bile acid metabolism, antibiotic use, and the pleiotropic effects of microbially produced metabolites. These data show that events that start in the gut, often in response to external cues such as diet and circadian disruption, have far-reaching effects beyond the gut.
Kruttika Dabke, Gustaf Hendrick, Suzanne Devkota
The metabolic syndrome (MetS) encompasses medical conditions such as obesity, hyperglycemia, high blood pressure, and dyslipidemia that are major drivers for the ever-increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain types of cancer. At the core of clinical strategies against the MetS is weight loss, induced by bariatric surgery, lifestyle changes based on calorie reduction and exercise, or pharmacology. This Review summarizes the past, current, and future efforts of targeting the MetS by pharmacological agents. Major emphasis is given to drugs that target the CNS as a key denominator for obesity and its comorbid sequelae.
Kerstin Stemmer, Timo D. Müller, Richard D. DiMarchi, Paul T. Pfluger, Matthias H. Tschöp