Accumulating evidence suggests that adipose tissue is a dynamic organ that undergoes expansion and contraction in response to energy demands and obesity-associated tissue injury. The dynamic nature of the adipose tissue is achieved via changes in both size and number of mature adipocytes through adipocyte hypertrophy and preadipocytes proliferation and differentiation respectively. These changes are mediated through various growth factors and cytokines secreted by cells within the adipose tissues (Spalding et al. 2008). Hypertrophied adipocytes secrete cytokines such as IL-6 that can trigger macrophage infiltration and secretion of IL-1β, TNFα and IL-8 (Bjorntorp 1974; Kobashi et al. 2009), causing impairment of preadipocytes differentiation and induction of insulin resistance (Gustafson et al. 2007; Veilleux et al. 2009). TNFα-stimulates HGF release from fibroblasts and monocytes within the adipose tissue serving as a potent mitogenic factor (Bell et al. 2008). Mature adipocytes secrete IGF-I that plays a major role in preadipocyte differentiation (Bluher et al. 2005). Other growth factors such as VEGF were suggested to regulate the balance between osteoblast and adipocyte differentiation from pre-preadipocytes (mesenchymal stem cells) (Liu et al. 2012). Preadipocytes exhibit unique depot-specific characteristics that persist in expanded in vitro such as different size, lipoprotein binding, fatty acid transfer, protein secretion and response to insulin and lipolytic agents (Tchkonia et al. 2013). Cultured human abdominal subcutaneous preadipocytes (SC) accumulate more fat and exhibit a greater expression of adipogenic transcription factor than omental preadipocytes (OM) (Tchkonia et al. 2005). SC adipocytes serve as the first optimal fat storage choice (Tchkonia et al. 2013). Obesity causes impairment in SC fat storing capacity as a result of reduction in the number of differentiating preadipocytes and hypertrophy of mature adipocytes (Isakson et al. 2009; Spalding et al. 2008). This leads to expansion of visceral fat, including OM depot, with ectopic fat accumulation in the liver, skeletal muscle and heart (Okuno et al. 1998; Tchkonia et al. 2010). Visceral and ectopic fat accumulation results in further augmentation of insulin resistance in these tissues (Petersen and Shulman 2006), which is associated with a depot-dependent (OM > SC) IL-6 release in vivo and ex vivo (Fried et al. 1998; Mohamed-Ali et al. 1997).


In this study we compared the secretion of IL-6, IL-1β, TNFα and IL-8 in 15 paired subcutaneous (SC) and omental (OM) preadipocytes cultures expanded from stromal-vascular fraction (SVF), isolated from morbidly obese patients (8 males and 7 females) undergoing weight reduction surgery at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC). We further evaluated the effect of IGF-1, HGF and VEGF on preadipocytes proliferation and differentiation in paired SC and OM preadipocytes cultures isolated from 3 randomly selected female subjects matched for age and BMI. For this purpose, SVF-derived cells (passage 1–2) were grown in stromal medium overnight then incubated in differentiation medium for 7 days, followed by 12 days in maintenance medium as previously described (Lee et al. 2012). Accumulated levels of secreted IL-6, IL-1β, TNFα and IL-8 in the last four days of differentiation were measured in media supernatants using Inflammatory Cytokine Human Magnetic 5-Plex (Life Technologies) according to manufacturer's instructions and assessed by Luminex Flexmap 3D using xPONENT® software. For experiments investigating the effect of growth factors on preadipocytes proliferation and differentiation, cells were grown as above in the absence or presence of 200 ng/ml IGF-1, 100 ng/ml HGF or 50 ng/ml VEGF for the entire differentiation and maintenance periods (once every 3–4 days). To assess proliferation and differentiation capacity, cells were fixed with 4% formalin for 10 min, stained with DAPI and subsequently with Lipidtox (Life Technologies) for 20 min. Total number of nuclei (DAPI, indicator of proliferation) and differentiated adipocytes (Lipidtox positive cells) were scored in 20 fields per well by ArrayScan XTI (Thermo Scientific) using automated spot detection module. Differentiation capacity was assessed by calculating the ratio of Lipidtox positive cells/total number of stained nuclei and presented as a percentage (adipogenic capacity). All protocols were approved by Institutional Research Boards of ADLQ and HMC (SCH-ADL-070, SCH-JOINT-111).


Levels of secreted IL-6, IL-1β and IL-8 were significantly higher in OM preadipocytes compared to their SC-derived counterparts (Fig. 1), whereas secreted TNFα levels were below the level of detection. Compared to their age and BMI matched males counterpart, SC preadipocytes from females exhibited significantly higher levels of secreted IL-6 by 49.2% (p = 0.05) (Table 1) with no significant differences in other measured cytokines in either tissue. Treatment of SC and OM preadipocytes with IGF1, HGF and VEGF increased subcutaneous preadipocytes proliferation by 20% (n = 3, p ≤ 0.01) but had no significant effect on omental preadipocytes (Fig. 2). In contrast, IGF1 increased omental preadipocyte differentiation by 50% (p = 0.02), whereas neither HGF nor VEGF exhibited significant effect on subcutaneous or omental preadipocytes differentiation (Fig. 3).

Discussion and Conclusion

Our data suggest that elevated levels of secreted IL-6, IL-1β and IL-8 in OM compared to SC expanded cultures confirm the greater inflammatory nature of OM-expanded in vitro cultures shown previously in vivo and ex vivo (Fain 2006; Fried et al. 1998; Maury et al. 2007). The greater IL-6 secretion in female SC preadipocytes may suggest a role of sex steroid hormones (estrogen and androgen), but mechanisms for depot-specific differences remain poorly understood (Lee et al. 2013). Previous data has shown that preadipocytes are potent sources of growth factors such as VEGF, HGF, and IGF-1 in response to inflammatory mediators via a p38 MAPK-dependent mechanism (Wang et al. 2006). Investigation of the function of these growth factors on proliferation and differentiation of SC and OM expanded cultures confirmed the mitogenic nature of all these growth factors in SC but not in OM preadipocytes, while only IGF-1 enhanced differentiation of OM preadipocytes. These depot-specific differences in preadipocyte proliferation and differentiation in response to various mitogenic and adipogenic factors may be explained by their different cellular composition and physiological role (Lee et al. 2013). The molecular mechanisms underlying these differences and their impact on metabolic syndrome remain elusive. The contribution of secreted cytokines and growth factors on depot-specific differences and metabolic complications associated with central obesity may shed some light on these mechanisms.


This research was sponsored by Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), Grant number NPRP6-235-1-048.


Bell LN, Cai L, Johnstone BH, Traktuev DO, March KL, Considine RV (2008) A central role for hepatocyte growth factor in adipose tissue angiogenesis. American journal of physiology Endocrinology and metabolism 294:E336–344. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00272.2007

Bjorntorp P (1974) Effects of age, sex, and clinical conditions on adipose tissue cellularity in man.Metabolism: clinical and experimental 23:1091–1102.

Bluher S, Kratzsch J, Kiess W (2005) Insulin-like growth factor I, growth hormone and insulin in white adipose tissue Best practice & research. Clinical endocrinology & metabolism 19:577–587.doi:10.1016/j.beem.2005.07.011

Fain JN (2006) Release of interleukins and other inflammatory cytokines by human adipose tissue is enhanced in obesity and primarily due to the nonfat cells. Vitamins and hormones 74:443–477.doi:10.1016/S0083-6729(06)74018-3

Fried SK, Bunkin DA, Greenberg AS (1998) Omental and subcutaneous adipose tissues of obese subjects release interleukin-6: depot difference and regulation by glucocorticoid. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism 83:847–850. doi:10.1210/jcem.83.3.4660

Gustafson B, Hammarstedt A, Andersson CX, Smith U (2007) Inflamed adipose tissue: a culprit underlying the metabolic syndrome and atherosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology 27:2276–2283. doi:10.1161/ATVBAHA.107.147835

Isakson P, Hammarstedt A, Gustafson B, Smith U (2009) Impaired preadipocyte differentiation in human abdominal obesity: role of Wnt, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and inflammation. Diabetes 58:1550–1557. doi:10.2337/db08-1770

Kobashi C et al. (2009) Inhibitory effect of IL-8 on insulin action in human adipocytes via MAP kinase pathway. Journal of inflammation 6:25. doi:10.1186/1476-9255-6-25

Lee MJ, Wu Y, Fried SK (2012) A modified protocol to maximize differentiation of human preadipocytes and improve metabolic phenotypes. Obesity 20:2334–2340. doi:10.1038/oby.2012.116

Lee MJ, Wu Y, Fried SK (2013) Adipose tissue heterogeneity: implication of depot differences in adipose tissue for obesity complications. Molecular aspects of medicine 34:1–11. doi:10.1016/


Liu Y, Berendsen AD, Jia S, Lotinun S, Baron R, Ferrara N, Olsen BR (2012) Intracellular VEGF regulates the balance between osteoblast and adipocyte differentiation. The Journal of clinical investigation 122:3101–3113. doi:10.1172/JCI61209

Maury E, Ehala-Aleksejev K, Guiot Y, Detry R, Vandenhooft A, Brichard SM (2007) Adipokines oversecreted by omental adipose tissue in human obesity. American journal of physiology Endocrinology and metabolism 293:E656–665. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00127.2007

Mohamed-Ali V et al. (1997) Subcutaneous adipose tissue releases interleukin-6, but not tumor necrosis factor-alpha, in vivo. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism 82:4196–4200. doi:10.1210/jcem.82.12.4450

Okuno A et al. (1998) Troglitazone increases the number of small adipocytes without the change of white adipose tissue mass in obese Zucker rats. The Journal of clinical investigation 101:1354–1361. doi:10.1172/JCI1235

Petersen KF, Shulman GI (2006) Etiology of insulin resistance. The American journal of medicine 119:S10–16. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2006.01.009

Spalding KL et al. (2008) Dynamics of fat cell turnover in humans Nature 453:783-787. doi:10.1038/nature06902Tchkonia T et al. (2010) Fat tissue, aging, and cellular senescence. Aging cell 9:667–684. doi:10.1111/j.1474-9726.2010.00608.x

Tchkonia T et al. (2005) Abundance of two human preadipocyte subtypes with distinct capacities for replication, adipogenesis, and apoptosis varies among fat depots. American journal of physiology Endocrinology and metabolism 288:E267–277. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00265.2004

Tchkonia T, Thomou T, Zhu Y, Karagiannides I, Pothoulakis C, Jensen MD, Kirkland JL (2013) Mechanisms and metabolic implications of regional differences among fat depots. Cell metabolism 17:644–656. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2013.03.008

Veilleux A, Blouin K, Rheaume C, Daris M, Marette A, Tchernof A (2009) Glucose transporter 4 and insulin receptor substrate-1 messenger RNA expression in omental and subcutaneous adipose tissue in women. Metabolism: clinical and experimental 58:624–631. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2008.12.007

Wang M, Crisostomo PR, Herring C, Meldrum KK, Meldrum DR (2006) Human progenitor cells from bone marrow or adipose tissue produce VEGF, HGF, and IGF-I in response to TNF by a p38 MAPK-dependent mechanism. American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology 291:R880–884. doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00280.2006


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error