Adipoclast: a multinucleated fat-eating macrophage

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Title: Adipoclast: a multinucleated fat-eating macrophage
Authors: Behmoaras, J
Item Type: Journal Article
Abstract: Cell membrane fusion and multinucleation in macrophages are associated with physiologic homeostasis as well as disease. Osteoclasts are multinucleated macrophages that resorb bone through increased metabolic activity resulting from cell fusion. Fusion of macrophages also generates multinucleated giant cells (MGCs) in white adipose tissue (WAT) of obese individuals. For years, our knowledge of MGCs in WAT has been limited to their description as part of crown-like structures (CLS) surrounding damaged adipocytes. However, recent evidence indicates that these cells can phagocytose oversized lipid remnants, suggesting that, as in osteoclasts, cell fusion and multinucleation are required for specialized catabolic functions. We thus reason that WAT MGCs can be viewed as functionally analogous to osteoclasts and refer to them in this article as adipoclasts. We first review current knowledge on adipoclasts and their described functions. In view of recent advances in single cell genomics, we describe WAT macrophages from a ‘fusion perspective’ and speculate on the ontogeny of adipoclasts. Specifically, we highlight the role of CD9 and TREM2, two plasma membrane markers of lipid-associated macrophages in WAT, which have been previously described as regulators of fusion and multinucleation in osteoclasts and MGCs. Finally, we consider whether strategies aiming to target WAT macrophages can be more selectively directed against adipoclasts.
Issue Date: 19-Nov-2021
Date of Acceptance: 29-Oct-2021
DOI: 10.1186/s12915-021-01181-3
ISSN: 1741-7007
Publisher: BioMed Central
Start Page: 1
End Page: 10
Journal / Book Title: BMC Biology
Volume: 19
Issue: 246
Copyright Statement: © The Author(s). 2021 Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Sponsor/Funder: Medical Research Council (MRC)
Medical Research Council (MRC)
Funder's Grant Number: MR/N01121X/1
Keywords: 06 Biological Sciences
Developmental Biology
Publication Status: Published
Online Publication Date: 2021-11-19
Appears in Collections:Department of Immunology and Inflammation

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