Soft tissue
Adipose tissue tumors
Embryology and physiology of adipose tissue

Topic Completed: 1 August 2012

Minor changes: 11 September 2020

Copyright: 2002-2020,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Embryology and physiology of adipose tissue

Vijay Shankar, M.D.
Page views in 2019: 173
Page views in 2020 to date: 170
Cite this page: Shankar V. Embryology and physiology of adipose tissue. website. Accessed October 24th, 2020.
Definition / general
Embryologic development of adipose tissue:
  • Stage I: prior to 14 weeks of gestation, loose spindle cells and ground substance are present
  • Stage II: aggregates of mesenchymal cells condense around proliferating primitive blood vessels
  • Stage III: capillaries proliferate into rich network, preadipocytes become stellate and organize into lobules
  • Stage IV: fine lipid vacuoles develop within cytoplasm
  • Stage V: adipocytes accumulate within rich capillary network and perilobular mesenchyme condenses at periphery of lobule to form fibrovascular septa at week 24 (Early Hum Dev 1983;8:1)
  • Brown fat has similar development, but contains large mitochondria with uncoupling protein 1 (OMIM 113730); white fat progenitor cells can also induce brown adipogenesis through mir 16a signaling pathway (PLoS Biol 2012;10:e1001314)
  • Brown fat deposits are well established by month five of gestation, particularly in posterior cervical, axillary, suprailiac and perirenal regions
  • Adipocyte development is closely associated with angiogenesis: (a) fat appears first in well vascularized regions; (b) adipocytes synthesize lipoprotein lipase (transports serum triglycerides into adipocytes), which is transferred to luminal surface of capillary endothelium; (c) vasculature functions as a progenitor niche and may provide signals for adipocyte development (Science 2008;322:583)
  • Fat development is controlled by CHOP gene, which mediates differentiation of fibroblasts into adipocytes and growth arrest of terminally differentiated adipocytes; translocation of CHOP in myxoid liposarcomas may remove normal inhibition on CHOP
  • At birth, amount of adipose tissue increases for next 10 years with overall growth; at puberty, adipocytes increase in size and number
  • Brown fat is widely distributed in children in interscapular region, around neck vessels and muscles, around mediastinal structures, near lung hila and around abdominal viscera
  • Some adipocytes may originate from neural crest (Development 2007;134:2283)
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