Novel pathway of adipogenesis through cross-talk between adipose tissue macrophages, adipose stem cells and adipocytes: Evidence of cell plasticity

Gregorio Chazenbalk, Cristina Bertolotto, Saleh Heneidi, Medet Jumabay, Bradley Trivax, Joel Aronowitz, Kotaro Yoshimura, Charles F. Simmons, Daniel A. Dumesic, Ricardo Azziz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Introduction: Previous studies highlight a complex relationship between lineage and phenotype for adipose tissue macrophages (ATMs), adipose stem cells (ASCs), and adipocytes, suggesting a high degree of plasticity of these cells. In the present study, using a novel co-culture system, we further characterized the interaction between ATMs, ASCs and adipocytes. Research Design and Methods: Human adipocytes and the stromal vascular fraction containing ATMs and ASCs were isolated from human adipose tissue and co-cultured for 24 hours. FACS was used to characterize ATMs and ASCs before and after co-culture. Preadipocytes generated after co-culture were characterized by immunostaining for DLK (preadipocytes), CD14 and CD68 (ATMs), CD34 (ASCs), and Nile Red staining for lipid drops. qRT-PCR was used to quantify adipogenic markers such as C/EBPα and PPARγ. A novel fluorescent nanobead lineage tracing method was utilized before co-culture where fluorescent nanobeads were internalized by CD68 (+) ATMs. Results: Co-culture of adipocytes with ATMs and ASCs increased the formation of new preadipocytes, thereby increasing lipid accumulation and C/EBPα and PPARγ gene expression. Preadipocytes originating after co-culture were positive for markers of preadipocytes, ATMs and ASCs. Moreover, fluorescent nanobeads were internalized by ATMs before co-culture and the new preadipocytes formed after co-culture also contained fluorescent nanobeads, suggesting that new preadipocytes originated in part from ATMs. The formation of CD34(+)/CD68(+)/DLK (+) cell spheres supported the interaction of ATMs, ASCs and preadipocytes. Conclusions: Cross-talk between adipocytes, ATMs and ASCs promotes preadipocyte formation. The regulation of this novel adipogenic pathway involves differentiation of ATMs to preadipocytes. The presence of CD34(+)/CD68(+)/DLK(+) cells grouped in spheres suggest that paracrine interactions between these cell types plays an important role in the generation and proliferation of new preadipocytes. This phenomenon may reflect the in vivo plasticity of adipose tissue in which ATMs play an additional role during inflammation and other disease states. Understanding this novel pathway could influence adipogenesis, leading to new treatments for obesity, inflammation, and type 2 diabetes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere17834
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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