Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Glucocorticoids (GCs) have a profound effect on adipose biology increasing tissue mass causing central obesity. The pre-receptor regulation of GCs by 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11beta-HSD1) that activates cortisol from cortisone has been postulated as a fundamental mechanism underlying the metabolic syndrome mediating adipocyte hyperplasia and hypertrophy in the omental (OM) depot. Orbital adipose tissue (OF) is the site of intense inflammation and tissue remodelling in several orbital inflammatory disease states. In this study, we describe features of the GC metabolic pathways in normal human OF depot and compare it with subcutaneous (SC) and OM depots. Using an automated histological characterisation technique, OF adipocytes were found to be significantly smaller (parameters: area, maximum diameter and perimeter) than OM and SC adipocytes (P<0 x 001). Although immunohistochemical analyses demonstrated resident CD68+ cells in all three whole tissue adipose depots, OF CD68 mRNA and protein expression exceeded that of OM and SC (mRNA, P<0 x 05; protein, P<0 x 001). In addition, there was higher expression of glucocorticoid receptor (GR)alpha mRNA in the OF whole tissue depot (P<0 x 05). Conversely, 11beta-HSD1 mRNA together with the markers of late adipocyte differentiation (FABP4 and G3PDH) were significantly lower in OF. Primary cultures of OF preadipocytes demonstrated predominant 11beta-HSD1 oxo-reductase activity with minimal dehydrogenase activity. Orbital adipocytes are smaller, less differentiated, and express low levels of 11beta-HSD1 but abundant GRalpha compared with SC and OM. OF harbours a large CD68+ population. These characteristics define an orbital microenvironment that has the potential to respond to sight-threatening orbital inflammatory disease.

Original publication




Journal article


J Endocrinol

Publication Date





279 - 288


11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1, Abdominal Fat, Adipocytes, Adipose Tissue, Antigens, CD, Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic, Biomarkers, Cell Differentiation, Cells, Cultured, Gene Expression, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Omentum, Orbit, RNA, Messenger, Receptors, Glucocorticoid, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, Subcutaneous Fat