Adipocyte cell role in human health and obesity
October 14 2017 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.


An adipocyte is basically a fat cell, a cell that has become specialized in the making and storage of fat. Adipose tissue contains adipocytes, used for cushioning, thermal insulation, lubrication (primarily in the pericardium by the heart) and energy storage. There are natural supplements that can reduce the volume of fat cells in the body.

The adipocyte is important to the body in maintaining proper energy balance, storing calories in the form of lipids, and mobilizing energy sources in response to hormonal stimulation. Interest in the biology of white adipose tissue has risen markedly with the recent surge in obesity and its associated disorders. They are no longer viewed simply as a vehicle for lipid storage; instead, they are recognized as a major endocrine and secretory cell and adipocytes, collectively, act as an organ.

Adipocytes as endocrine organs
White adipocytes release a number of protein hormones, signals and factors, termed adipokines, with an extensive range of physiological actions. Foremost among these various adipokines is the cytokine-like hormone, leptin, which is synthesized predominantly in white fat. White fat also secretes several putative appetite-related adipokines, which include interleukin-6 and adiponectin, but whether these are indeed significant signals in the regulation of food intake has not been established. Through leptin and the other adipokines it is evident that adipose tissue communicates extensively with other organs and plays a pervasive role in metabolic homeostasis.


Immune protection
Science. 2015. Innate immunity. Dermal adipocytes protect against invasive Staphylococcus aureus skin infection. Adipocytes have been suggested to be immunologically active, but their role in host defense is unclear. We observed rapid proliferation of preadipocytes and expansion of the dermal fat layer after infection of the skin by Staphylococcus aureus. Impaired adipogenesis resulted in increased infection as seen in Zfp423(nur12) mice or in mice given inhibitors of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ. This host defense function was mediated through the production of cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide from adipocytes because cathelicidin expression was decreased by inhibition of adipogenesis, and adipocytes from Camp(-/-) mice lost the capacity to inhibit bacterial growth. Together, these findings show that the production of an antimicrobial peptide by adipocytes is an important element for protection against S. aureus infection of the skin.


Adipocyte and toxins
White adipose tissue represents a reservoir of lipophilic environmental pollutants, especially of those which are resistant to biological and chemical degradation - so called persistent organic pollutants.