Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 378, Issue 3, pp 385–398 | Cite as

Focus on dedifferentiated adipocytes: characteristics, mechanisms, and possible applications

  • Julie Anne Côté
  • Giada Ostinelli
  • Marie-Frédérique Gauthier
  • Amélie Lacasse
  • André TchernofEmail author


It is largely believed that after undergoing differentiation, adipocytes can no longer divide. Yet, using ceiling culture, it was demonstrated in vitro that some adipocytes are able to regain proliferative abilities by becoming fibroblast-like cells called dedifferentiated adipocytes. Mature adipocytes are abundant, can be easily isolated, and represent a homogenous cell population. Because of these advantageous characteristics, dedifferentiated adipocytes are clinically attractive in tissue engineering as a potential treatment resource for conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiac and kidney diseases, as well as autoimmune diseases. The aim of this review article is to summarize current knowledge on adipocyte dedifferentiation by accurately describing dedifferentiated adipocyte characteristics such as morphological appearance, gene expression, antigen signature, pluripotency, and functionality. Current hypotheses possibly explaining the biological mechanisms and cellular reprogramming of the dedifferentiation process are summarized. Dedifferentiated adipocytes show a stem cell-like antigen profile and genome signature which add to their proliferative capacities and their ability to re-differentiate into diverse cell lineages. The dedifferentiation process likely involves liposecretion, that is, the rapid secretion of the cell’s lipid droplet. Dedifferentiated adipocytes may allow development of new uses in tissue engineering.


Adipocyte Stem cells Liposecretion Cellular reprogramming Ceiling culture 



Work performed on DFAT cells has been supported by discovery grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (2011-371697, 2016-05249, 2017-05825) to AT. JAC was funded by a doctoral fellowship from Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada. AL was funded by an undergraduate Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada scholarship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interests

AT receives funding from Johnson & Johnson Medical Companies and Medtronic for studies unrelated to this manuscript. The other authors declare no conflict of interests.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec (IUCPQ)QuébecCanada
  2. 2.School of NutritionLaval UniversityQuébecCanada

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