Histochemistry and Cell Biology

, Volume 149, Issue 6, pp 593–605 | Cite as

Simpson–Golabi–Behmel syndrome human adipocytes reveal a changing phenotype throughout differentiation

  • T. Montanari
  • M. Colitti
Original Paper


The Simpson–Golabi–Behmel syndrome (SGBS) cell strain is widely considered to be a representative in vitro model of human subcutaneous white pre-adipocytes. These cells achieve a transient expression of classical brown markers, such as uncoupling protein 1, peaking at day 14 of differentiation and decreasing thereafter. Adipocyte browning process involves dynamic changes in lipid droplet (LD) dimension, in mitochondria morphology, and in the expression of brown-specific marker genes. This study analyzes SGBS transient phenotypic transformation by quantifying the heterogeneity of LDs, mitochondrial dynamics, and a panel of genes involved in adipocyte differentiation and browning. LDs at 21 days of differentiation were larger than in the previous stages, without any change in the number per cell. The expression of genes such as peroxisome peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ, leptin, and lipase E significantly raised from 0 to 21 days. Adiponectin was significantly upregulated at 14 days of differentiation. Brown-specific marker PR domain containing 16 was highly expressed at D0. The variability of mitochondrial shape and interconnectivity reflects differences in the relative rates of fusion and fission, resulting in a significant shift from a networked shape at D7 to a fragmented and swollen one at D14 and D21. The transient phenotype experienced by this cellular model should be considered whether used in studies involving the stimulation of adipocyte browning and could be an interesting human model to further elucidate the browning process in the absence of any stimulation.


SGBS adipocytes UCP1 expression Lipid droplets Mito-Morphology 



We thank Dr. Martin Wabitsch (Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany) for providing the SGBS cells.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural, Food, Environmental and Animal SciencesUniversity of UdineUdineItaly

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