Adipose tissue is the primary site of estrogen biosynthesis in postmenopausal women. The two main histologic components of adipose tissue are mature adipocytes and fibroblasts. Aromatase P450 expressed in the fibroblast component of adipose tissue is responsible for catalyzing conversion of C19 steroids to estrogens. We previously have demonstrated that, in women, aromatase expression in adipose tissue of various body sites increases with age and that aromatase expression in the hip is markedly higher than in the abdomen. To determine whether this age- and regional- dependent variation in aromatase expression is caused by an alteration in the ratio of fibroblasts to mature adipocytes, we collected sc adipose tissue samples from 19 women (age range: 21-93 yr) at the time of autopsy. Using a computerized image analysis system, we determined by morphometry the proportions of adipocytes, fibroblasts, and vascular endothelial cells within histologic sections of adipose tissue from midabdomen, both breasts, and both hips. The percentage of each cell component at each body site was expressed as the mean of triplicate replicates. Statistical analysis of our results did not indicate any correlation between advancing age and fibroblast to adipocyte ratios in the breast, abdomen, or hip. Fibroblast to adipocyte ratios were found to be significantly higher in the breast and abdomen compared with the hip (P < 0.05). No statistical differences were found between the breast and abdomen. These findings suggest that the increase in aromatase expression with advancing age and the higher aromatase expression in the hip compared with the abdomen in women may be caused by alterations in specific signal transduction mechanisms rather than a simple increase in local adipose fibroblast numbers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism