Published online Jan 26, 2014. doi: 10.4252/wjsc.v6.i1.33
Revised: December 5, 2013
Accepted: January 6, 2014
Published online: January 26, 2014
Adipose tissue is a major metabolic organ, and it has been traditionally classified as either white adipose tissue (WAT) or brown adipose tissue (BAT). WAT and BAT are characterized by different anatomical locations, morphological structures, functions, and regulations. WAT and BAT are both involved in energy balance. WAT is mainly involved in the storage and mobilization of energy in the form of triglycerides, whereas BAT specializes in dissipating energy as heat during cold- or diet-induced thermogenesis. Recently, brown-like adipocytes were discovered in WAT. These brown-like adipocytes that appear in WAT are called beige or brite adipocytes. Interestingly, these beige/brite cells resemble white fat cells in the basal state, but they respond to thermogenic stimuli with increased levels of thermogenic genes and increased respiration rates. In addition, beige/brite cells have a gene expression pattern distinct from that of either white or brown fat cells. The current epidemic of obesity has increased the interest in studying adipocyte formation (adipogenesis), especially in beige/brite cells. This review summarizes the developmental process of adipose tissues that originate from the mesenchymal stem cells and the features of these three different types of adipocytes.
Core tip: Here, we summarize the characteristic differences of the white, brown and beige adipocytes derived from mesenchymal stem cells, including their anatomical location. In particular, we focus on the newly discovered brown-like adipocytes called beige/brite adipocytes. A deeper understanding of the molecular mechanism of these adipocytes may provide clues for overcoming obesity and its associated metabolic diseases.