The adipose tissue secretes a large number of bioactive substances, adipocytokines, which may be involved in a variety of physiologic and pathologic processes. Unbalanced production of pro- and anti-inflammatory adipocytokines seen in visceral fat obesity contributes critically to the development of the metabolic syndrome. Evidence has accumulated indicating that obesity is associated with a state of chronic, low-grade inflammation, suggesting that inflammation may be a potential mechanism, whereby obesity leads to insulin resistance. Indeed, obese adipose tissue is characterized by adipocyte hypertrophy, followed by increased angiogenesis, immune cell infiltration, extracellular matrix overproduction, and thus, increased production of proinflammatory adipocytokines during the progression of chronic inflammation. The dynamic change found in the adipose tissue can be referred to as "adipose tissue remodeling," in which stromal cells change dramatically in number and cell type during the course of obesity. Among stromal cells, infiltration of macrophages in the adipose tissue precedes the development of insulin resistance in animal models, suggesting that they are crucial for obesity-related adipose tissue inflammation. We have demonstrated that a paracrine loop involving saturated fatty acids and TNF-α derived from adipocytes and macrophages, respectively, aggravates obesity-induced adipose tissue inflammation. Notably, saturated fatty acids, which are released from hypertrophied adipocytes via the macrophage-induced lipolysis, serve as a naturally occurring ligand for TLR4 complex, thereby activating macrophages. Understanding the molecular mechanism underlying adipose tissue remodeling may lead to the identification of novel, therapeutic strategies to prevent or treat obesity-induced adipose tissue inflammation.
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