Published on January 25, 2024 Updated on February 13, 2024

J. Dufau, J. X. Shen, M. Couchet, T. De Castro Barbosa, N. Mejhert, L. Massier, E. Griseti, E. Mouisel, E. Z. Amri, V. M. Lauschke, M. Rydén, D. Langin (2021)


Adipocytes are specialized cells with pleiotropic roles in physiology and pathology. Several types of fat cells with distinct metabolic properties coexist in various anatomically defined fat depots in mammals. White, beige, and brown adipocytes differ in their handling of lipids and thermogenic capacity, promoting differences in size and morphology. Moreover, adipocytes release lipids and proteins with paracrine and endocrine functions. The intrinsic properties of adipocytes pose specific challenges in culture. Mature adipocytes float in suspension culture due to high triacylglycerol content and are fragile. Moreover, a fully differentiated state, notably acquirement of the unilocular lipid droplet of white adipocyte, has so far not been reached in two-dimensional culture. Cultures of mouse and human-differentiated preadipocyte cell lines and primary cells have been established to mimic white, beige, and brown adipocytes. Here, we survey various models of differentiated preadipocyte cells and primary mature adipocyte survival describing main characteristics, culture conditions, advantages, and limitations. An important development is the advent of three-dimensional culture, notably of adipose spheroids that recapitulate in vivo adipocyte function and morphology in fat depots. Challenges for the future include isolation and culture of adipose-derived stem cells from different anatomic location in animal models and humans differing in sex, age, fat mass, and pathophysiological conditions. Further understanding of fat cell physiology and dysfunction will be achieved through genetic manipulation, notably CRISPR-mediated gene editing. Capturing adipocyte heterogeneity at the single-cell level within a single fat depot will be key to understanding diversities in cardiometabolic parameters among lean and obese individuals.