Indexed on: 02 May '12Published on: 02 May '12Published in: Endocrinology
The differential association of hypoandrogenism in men and hyperandrogenism in women with insulin resistance and obesity suggests that androgens may exert sex-specific effects on adipose and other tissues, although the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Moreover, recent studies also suggest that rodents and humans may respond differently to androgen imbalance. To achieve better insight into clinically relevant sex-specific mechanisms of androgen action, we used nonhuman primates to investigate the direct effects of gonadectomy and hormone replacement on white adipose tissue. We also employed a novel ex vivo approach that provides a convenient framework for understanding of adipose tissue physiology under a controlled tissue culture environment. In vivo androgen deprivation of males did not result in overt obesity or insulin resistance but did induce the appearance of very small, multilocular white adipocytes. Testosterone replacement restored normal cell size and a unilocular phenotype and stimulated adipogenic gene transcription and improved insulin sensitivity of male adipose tissue. Ex vivo studies demonstrated sex-specific effects of androgens on adipocyte function. Female adipose tissue treated with androgens displayed elevated basal but reduced insulin-dependent fatty acid uptake. Androgen-stimulated basal uptake was greater in adipose tissue of ovariectomized females than in adipose tissue of intact females and ovariectomized females replaced with estrogen and progesterone in vivo. Collectively, these data demonstrate that androgens are essential for normal adipogenesis in males and can impair essential adipocyte functions in females, thus strengthening the experimental basis for sex-specific effects of androgens in adipose tissue.