Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) observation showed that fully differentiated spherical adipocytes were embraced by a network of collagens and fibroblastic preadipocytes. The properties of both the collagen networks and the preadipocytes allow the adipocytes to be interconnected, forming a fat-cell cluster, which can anchor to the bottom of a culture dish. In this network structure, collagen fibrils and fibrillar bundles were closely arranged and stratified. We found that immunostained collagens appeared to form extracellular network structures, which can be observed by SEM. The extracellular network of fibronectin was the first to develop among the extracellular matrix (ECM) components, though it became degraded with the progress of adipocyte differentiation. The type I collagen network was the last to develop and remained well organized through the late stage of adipocyte differentiation. The extracellular networks of type III, V, and VI collagen developed by the mid-stage and remained in the late stage of adipocyte differentiation. The network structures of type IV collagen and laminin became degraded during the differentiation process and localized at the surface of spherical cells. In addition to these basement membrane components, types III, V, and VI collagens also showed pericellular spherical staining patterns. These results demonstrated that the constitution and distribution of the ECM are altered during adipocyte differentiation, suggesting that the organization of each ECM component into a suitable structure is a requirement for the differentiation and maintenance of unilocular adipocytes.
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Vol. 36 • No. 1