PET imaging reveals distinctive roles for different regional adipose tissue depots in systemic glucose metabolism in nonobese humans

Jason M. Ng, Koichiro Azuma, Carol Kelley, Richard Pencek, Zofia Radikova, Charles Laymon, Julie Price, Bret H. Goodpaster, David E. Kelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Excess amounts of abdominal subcutaneous (SAT) and visceral (VAT) adipose tissue (AT) are associated with insulin resistance, even in normal-weight subjects. In contrast, gluteal-femoral AT (GFAT) is hypothesized to offer protection against insulin resistance. Dynamic PET imaging studies were undertaken to examine the contributions of both metabolic activity and size (volume) of these depots in systemic glucose metabolism. Nonobese, healthy volunteers (n = 15) underwent dynamic PET imaging uptake of [18F]FDG at a steady-state (20 mU·m-2·min-1) insulin infusion. PET images of tissue [18F]FDG activity were coregistered with MRI to derive K values for insulin-stimulated rates of fractional glucose uptake within tissue. Adipose tissue volume was calculated from DEXA and MRI. VAT had significantly higher rates of fractional glucose uptake per volume than SAT (P < 0.05) or GFAT (P < 0.01). KGFAT correlated positively (r = 0.67, P < 0.01) with systemic insulin sensitivity [glucose disappearance rate (Rd)] and negatively with insulin-suppressed FFA (r = -0.71, P < 0.01). SAT (r = -0.70, P < 0.01) and VAT mass (r = -0.55, P < 0.05) correlated negatively with Rd, but GFAT mass did not. We conclude that rates of fractional glucose uptake within GFAT and VAT are significantly and positively associated with systemic insulin sensitivity in nonobese subjects. Furthermore, whereas SAT and VAT amounts are confirmed to relate to systemic insulin resistance, GFAT amount is not associated with insulin resistance. These dynamic PET imaging studies indicate that both quantity and quality of specific AT depots have distinct roles in systemic insulin resistance and may help explain the metabolically obese but normal-weight phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1134-E1141
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Nov 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Insulin sensitivity
  • Positron emission tomography imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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