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Adipocyte telomere length associates negatively with adipocyte size, whereas adipose tissue telomere length associates negatively with the extent of fibrosis in severely obese women


Telomere length can be considered as a biological marker for cell proliferation and aging. Obesity is associated with adipocyte hypertrophy and proliferation as well as with shorter telomeres in adipose tissue. As adipose tissue is a mixture of different cell types and the cellular composition of adipose tissue changes with obesity, it is unclear what determines telomere length of whole adipose tissue. We aimed to investigate telomere length in whole adipose tissue and isolated adipocytes in relation to adiposity, adipocyte hypertrophy and adipose tissue inflammation and fibrosis. Telomere length was measured by real-time PCR in visceral adipose tissue, and isolated adipocytes of 21 obese women with a waist ranging from 110 to 147 cm and age from 31 to 61 years. Telomere length in adipocytes was shorter than in whole adipose tissue. Telomere length of adipocytes but not whole adipose tissue correlated negatively with waist and adipocyte size, which was still significant after correction for age. Telomere length of whole adipose tissue associated negatively with fibrosis as determined by collagen content. Thus, in extremely obese individuals, adipocyte telomere length is a marker of adiposity, whereas whole adipose tissue telomere length reflects the extent of fibrosis and may indicate adipose tissue dysfunction.

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This work was supported by grants from the Center of Medical Systems Biology (CMSB), the Netherlands Consortium for Systems Biology (NCSB) established by The Netherlands Genomics Initiative/Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NGI/NWO) and Leiden University Medical Center Fellowship. This study was performed within the framework of the Center for Translational Molecular Medicine (; project PREDICCt (grant 01C-104). The study was performed with an unrestricted grant from the Dutch Obesity Clinic.

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Correspondence to V van Harmelen.

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el Bouazzaoui, F., Henneman, P., Thijssen, P. et al. Adipocyte telomere length associates negatively with adipocyte size, whereas adipose tissue telomere length associates negatively with the extent of fibrosis in severely obese women. Int J Obes 38, 746–749 (2014).

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  • adipocytes
  • telomeres
  • fibrosis
  • adipocyte size

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