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      Heterogeneity in the physiological states and pharmacological responses of differentiating 3T3-L1 preadipocytes

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          A systems biology–based analysis shows that differentiating adipocytes look very different at the single-cell level and form distinct cellular subpopulations.


          Increases in key components of adipogenesis and lipolysis pathways correlate at the population-averaged level during adipogenesis. However, differentiating preadipocytes are highly heterogeneous in cellular and lipid droplet (LD) morphologies, and the degree to which individual cells follow population-averaged trends is unclear. In this study, we analyze the molecular heterogeneity of differentiating 3T3-L1 preadipocytes using immunofluorescence microscopy. Unexpectedly, we only observe a small percentage of cells with high simultaneous expression of markers for adipogenesis (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ [PPARγ], CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein α, and adiponectin) and lipid accumulation (hormone-sensitive lipase, perilipin A, and LDs). Instead, we identify subpopulations of cells with negatively correlated expressions of these readouts. Acute perturbation of adipocyte differentiation with PPARγ agonists, forskolin, and fatty acids induced subpopulation-specific effects, including redistribution of the percentage of cells in observed subpopulations and differential expression levels of PPARγ. Collectively, our results suggested that heterogeneity observed during 3T3-L1 adipogenesis reflects a dynamic mixture of subpopulations with distinct physiological states.

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          Most cited references 44

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          Stochastic gene expression in a single cell.

          Clonal populations of cells exhibit substantial phenotypic variation. Such heterogeneity can be essential for many biological processes and is conjectured to arise from stochasticity, or noise, in gene expression. We constructed strains of Escherichia coli that enable detection of noise and discrimination between the two mechanisms by which it is generated. Both stochasticity inherent in the biochemical process of gene expression (intrinsic noise) and fluctuations in other cellular components (extrinsic noise) contribute substantially to overall variation. Transcription rate, regulatory dynamics, and genetic factors control the amplitude of noise. These results establish a quantitative foundation for modeling noise in genetic networks and reveal how low intracellular copy numbers of molecules can fundamentally limit the precision of gene regulation.
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            Paradoxical decrease of an adipose-specific protein, adiponectin, in obesity.

            We isolated the human adipose-specific and most abundant gene transcript, apM1 (Maeda, K., et al., Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 221, 286-289, 1996). The apM1 gene product was a kind of soluble matrix protein, which we named adiponectin. To quantitate the plasma adiponectin concentration, we have produced monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies for human adiponectin and developed an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) system. Adiponectin was abundantly present in the plasma of healthy volunteers in the range from 1.9 to 17.0 mg/ml. Plasma concentrations of adiponectin in obese subjects were significantly lower than those in non-obese subjects, although adiponectin is secreted only from adipose tissue. The ELISA system developed in this study will be useful for elucidating the physiological and pathophysiological role of adiponectin in humans. Copyright 1999 Academic Press.
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              Dynamics of fat cell turnover in humans.

              Obesity is increasing in an epidemic manner in most countries and constitutes a public health problem by enhancing the risk for cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes. Owing to the increase in obesity, life expectancy may start to decrease in developed countries for the first time in recent history. The factors determining fat mass in adult humans are not fully understood, but increased lipid storage in already developed fat cells (adipocytes) is thought to be most important. Here we show that adipocyte number is a major determinant for the fat mass in adults. However, the number of fat cells stays constant in adulthood in lean and obese individuals, even after marked weight loss, indicating that the number of adipocytes is set during childhood and adolescence. To establish the dynamics within the stable population of adipocytes in adults, we have measured adipocyte turnover by analysing the integration of 14C derived from nuclear bomb tests in genomic DNA. Approximately 10% of fat cells are renewed annually at all adult ages and levels of body mass index. Neither adipocyte death nor generation rate is altered in early onset obesity, suggesting a tight regulation of fat cell number in this condition during adulthood. The high turnover of adipocytes establishes a new therapeutic target for pharmacological intervention in obesity.

                Author and article information

                [1 ]Green Center for Systems Biology and [2 ]Department of Pharmacology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390
                Author notes
                Correspondence to Steven J. Altschuler: steven.altschuler@ ; or Lani F. Wu: lani.wu@
                J Cell Biol
                J. Cell Biol
                The Journal of Cell Biology
                The Rockefeller University Press
                2 November 2009
                : 187
                : 3
                : 375-384
                19948481 2779244 200904140 10.1083/jcb.200904140
                © 2009 Loo et al.

                This article is distributed under the terms of an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike–No Mirror Sites license for the first six months after the publication date (see After six months it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, as described at

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