Horm Metab Res 2008; 40(7): 442-445
DOI: 10.1055/s-2008-1062724

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

The Double Role of Epicardial Adipose Tissue as Pro- and Anti-inflammatory Organ

G. Iacobellis 1 , G. Barbaro 2
  • 1Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
  • 2Cardiology Unit, Department of Medical Pathophysiology, University “La Sapienza”, Rome, Italy
Further Information

Publication History

received 25.10.2007

accepted 29.11.2007

Publication Date:
13 March 2008 (online)


Obesity is associated with low grade inflammation. Whether this is just an adaptive response to excess adiposity to maintain a normal oxygen supply or a chronic activation of the innate immune system is still unknown. Recent research has focused on the origin of the inflammatory markers in obesity and the extent to which adipose tissue has a direct effect. The production of adipokines by visceral adipose tissue is of particular interest since their local secretion by visceral fat depots may provide a novel mechanistic link between obesity and the associated vascular complications. Growing evidences suggest that the epicardial adipose tissue, the visceral fat depot located around the heart, may locally interact with myocardium and coronary arteries. Epicardial fat is a source of adiponectin and adrenomedullin, adipokines with anti-inflammatory properties, and several proinflammatory cytokines as well as Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-α), Interleukin 1 (IL1), IL-1 h, Interleukin (IL6), Monocyte Chemoattractive Protein-1 (MCP-1), Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), resistin, Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), and free fatty acids. Epicardial adipose tissue could locally modulate the heart and vasculature, through paracrine secretion of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, thereby playing a possible role in the adiposity-related inflammation and atherosclerosis. On the other hand, epicardial fat could exert a protective effect through adiponectin and adrenomedullin secretion as response to local or systemic metabolic or mechanical insults. Future studies will continue to provide new and fascinating insights into the double role of epicardial adipose tissue in the development of cardiovascular pathology and/or in protecting the heart and arteries.


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G. IacobellisMD, PhD 

Department of Medicine

St. Joseph's Hospital

50 Charlton Avenue East

5th Fontbonne Bldg



Canada L8N 4A6

Phone: +1/905/521 60 53

Fax: +1/905/540 65 96

Email: gianluca@ccc.mcmaster.ca

Email: gianluca.iaco@tin.it