Biology of human fat distribution

IMB Distinguished Seminar by professor Fredrik Karpe.

Fredrik Karpe, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism


Lower body fat accumulation shows neutral of negative associations to complications to obesity, but the mechanisms by which gluteofemoral fat could be protective are not well understood. Recent evidence suggests distinct differences in adipocyte cellularity in response to weight gain in upper body vs lower body fat. The ability to recruit new adipocytes to lay down superfluous energy is likely to be part of a healthy response; this brings site-specific weight gain into the world of regional differences in stem cell recruitment and cellular ageing.

In order to identify novel genetic regulators of human adipose tissue cellularity, expansion and function, we hypothesised that genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on human fat distribution or insulin-resistance would provide information on pathways or specific loci. The HOXC13 locus appears to contain several independent signals which are partly under both genetic and epigenetic control. Several loci indicate proximity to Wnt signalling which is concordant with our recent work on LRP5. These studies provide functional genomic data demonstrating genetic components shaping regional adipose tissue expansion.

In summary, the positive health benefits from lower body fat accumulation may go further than just a statistical/epidemiological association. Differences of regional adipocyte function, partly driven by genetic variability, provide cogent mechanistic insight into epidemiological relationships.

Authors: Fredrik Karpe, Marijana Todorcevic, Katherine Pinnick, Matt J Neville and Costas Christodoulides
OCDEM, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

About the speaker

Professor Karpe’s laboratory works on human adipose tissue function and the effect of obesity on metabolism. The group is interested in the links between diabetes and cardiovascular disease and upper/lower body obesity. The group aims to clarify mechanisms behind the protection which lower body adipose tissue seems to confer, and the detrimental effect of visceral adipose tissue, by studying the tissues at both cellular and whole body level.

The Distinguished Seminar Series

The Institute of Basic Medical Sciences invites leading scientists and scholars to give lectures based on their field of study. 


Published Mar. 30, 2017 10:34 AM - Last modified Dec. 12, 2017 2:33 PM