A Matter of Fat

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Science  05 Jul 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5578, pp. 17
DOI: 10.1126/science.297.5578.17b

Although adipose tissue (body fat) generally gets a bad rap in the context of human health, a growing body of research indicates that this tissue produces several hormones, or “adipokines,” that are essential for normal feeding behavior, metabolism, energy balance, and vascular tone. Among the fat-derived hormones is adiponectin, a protein whose serum levels are high in lean individuals and low in obese individuals.

Previous work had suggested that adiponectin might also regulate insulin sensitivity. This link is strengthened by new work from Kubota et al. and Maeda et al., who independently generated mice genetically deficient in adiponectin. When placed on a high-fat diet, mice lacking this hormone showed a weight gain comparable to that of control mice, but, in contrast to controls, they developed moderate to severe insulin resistance, a hallmark of type 2 diabetes. Intriguingly, Kubota et al. also report that the adiponectin-deficient mice might be more susceptible to vascular disease, as evidenced by the animals' exaggerated response to mechanical injury of the femoral artery, a model that mimics human atherosclerosis. These results support the view that adiponectin is a critical molecular link between obesity, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. — PAK

J. Biol. Chem. 10.1074/jbc.C200251200 (2002); Nature Med. 10.1038/nm724 (2002).

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