Adipose tissue plays a crucial role in energy homeostasis not only in storing triglyceride, but also responding to nutrient, neural, and hormonal signals, and producing factors which control feeding, thermogenesis, immune and neuroendocrine function, and glucose and lipid metabolism. Adipose tissue secretes leptin, steroid hormones, adiponectin, inflammatory cytokines, resistin, complement factors, and vasoactive peptides. The endocrine function of adipose tissue is typified by leptin. An increase in leptin signals satiety to neuronal targets in the hypothalamus. Leptin activates Janus-activating kinase2 (Jak2) and STAT 3, resulting in stimulation of anorexigenic peptides, e.g., α-MSH and CART, and inhibition of orexigenic peptides, e.g., NPY and AGRP. The reduction in leptin levels during fasting stimulates appetite, decreases thermogenesis, thyroid and reproductive hormones, and increases glucocorticoids. Leptin also stimulates fatty acid oxidation, insulin release, and peripheral insulin action. These effects involve regulation of PI-3 kinase, PTP-1B, suppressor of cytokine signaling-3 (SOCS-3), and AMP-activated protein kinase in the brain and peripheral organs. There is emerging evidence that leptin, adiponectin, and resistin act through overlapping pathways. Understanding the signal transduction of adipocyte hormones will provide novel insights on the pathogenesis and treatment of obesity, diabetes, and various metabolic disorders.
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