An adipocentric view of signaling and intracellular trafficking

Silvia Mora, Jeffrey E. Pessin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


Adipocytes have traditionally been considered to be the primary site for whole body energy storage mainly in the form of triglycerides and fatty acids. This occurs through the ability of insulin to markedly stimulate both glucose uptake and lipogenesis. Conventional wisdom held that defects in fuel partitioning into adipocytes either because of increased adipose tissue mass and/or increased lipolysis and circulating free fatty acids resulted in dyslipidemia, obesity, insulin resistance and perhaps diabetes. However, it has become increasingly apparent that loss of adipose tissue (lipodystrophies) in both animal models and humans also leads to metabolic disorders that result in severe states of insulin resistance and potential diabetes. These apparently opposite functions can be resolved by the establishment of adipocytes not only as a fuel storage depot but also as a critical endocrine organ that secretes a variety of signaling molecules into the circulation. Although the molecular function of these adipocyte-derived signals are poorly understood, they play a central role in the maintenance of energy homeostasis by regulating insulin secretion, insulin action, glucose and lipid metabolism, energy balance, host defense and reproduction. The diversity of these secretory factors include enzymes (lipoprotein lipase (LPL) and adipsin), growth factors [vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)], cytokines (tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin 6) and several other hormones involved in fatty acid and glucose metabolism (leptin, Acrp30, resistin and acylation stimulation protein). Despite the large number of molecules secreted by adipocytes, our understanding of the pathways and mechanisms controlling intracellular trafficking and exocytosis in adipocytes is poorly understood. In this article, we will review the current knowledge of the trafficking and secretion processes that take place in adipocytes, focusing our attention on two of the best characterized adipokine molecules (leptin and adiponectin) and on one of the most intensively studied regulated membrane proteins, the GLUT4 glucose transporter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-356
Number of pages12
JournalDiabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Adipocytes
  • Endocrine tissue
  • Hormones
  • Secretion
  • Trafficking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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