Adipose tissue not only stores energy, but also controls metabolism through secretion of hormones, cytokines, proteins, and microRNAs that affect the function of cells and tissues throughout the body. Adipose tissue is organized into discrete depots throughout the body, and these depots are differentially associated with insulin resistance and increased risk of metabolic disease. In addition to energy-dissipating brown and beige adipocytes, recent lineage tracing studies have demonstrated that individual adipose depots are composed of white adipocytes that are derived from distinct precursor populations, giving rise to distinct subpopulations of energy-storing white adipocytes. In this review, we discuss this developmental and functional heterogeneity of white adipocytes both between and within adipose depots. In particular, we will highlight findings from our recent manuscript in which we find and characterize three major subtypes of white adipocytes. We will discuss these data relating to the differences between subcutaneous and visceral white adipose tissue and in relationship to previous work deciphering adipocyte heterogeneity within adipose tissue depots. Finally, we will discuss the possible implications of adipocyte heterogeneity may have for the understanding of lipodystrophies.
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