Esterification of free fatty acids in adipocytes: A comparison between octanoate and oleate

Wen Guo, Ji Kyung Choi, James L. Kirkland, Barbara E. Corkey, James A. Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Medium-chain triacylglycerols (MCT) are present in milk, coconut oil and other foods, and are used therapeutically in special diets for certain disorders of lipid and glucose utilization. Recently, it has become apparent that MCT are not only oxidized in the liver, but are also present in lymph and fat tissue, particularly after chronic treatment. To evaluate the influence of MCT on metabolism in fat cells, we compared incorporation of octanoate and oleate into cellular triacylglycerols of 3T3-L1 adipocytes as well as their effects on preadipocyte differentiation. We found that less octanoate than oleate was stored and that more octanoate than oleate was oxidized. Octanoate was esterified to a greater extent at the sn-1,3 position of glyceryl carbons than at the sn-2 position, whereas the opposite was true for oleate. Glycerol release from fat cells pre-treated with octanoate was also greater than from cells pre-treated with oleate, presumably related to the preferential release of octanoate from the sn-1,3 position. Octanoate was not incorporated into lipids in undifferentiated cells and did not induce differentiation in these cells, whereas oleate was readily stored and actually induced differentiation. Incorporation of octanoate into lipids increased as cells differentiated, but reached a maximum of about 10% of the total stored fatty acids. If these effects in vitro also occur in vivo, substitution of octanoate for oleate or other long-chain fatty acids could have the beneficial effect of diminishing fat-cell number and lipid content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-471
Number of pages9
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 15 2000


  • Differentiation
  • Lipolysis
  • Triacylglycerol storage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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