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Abstract

Adipokines are polypeptides secreted in the adipose tissue in a regulated manner. While some of these molecules are expressed only by adipocytes, resident and infiltrating macrophages and components of the vascular stroma markedly contribute to expression of other adipokines. As a result, adipose tissue inflammation is associated with a modification in the pattern of adipokine secretion. Leptin, adiponectin, and resistin are the best-studied molecules in this class, but cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor or interleukin-6 are also secreted at high levels by the adipose tissue. Several other molecules have been recently identified and are actively investigated. Adipokines interfere with hepatic injury associated with fatty infiltration, differentially modulating steatosis, inflammation, and fibrosis. Several studies have investigated plasma levels of adiponectin in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, to establish correlations with the underlying state of insulin resistance and with the type and severity of hepatic damage. Hepatitis C is another disease where adipokines may represent a link between viral infection, steatosis, and metabolic disturbances. Identification of the mediators secreted by expanded adipose tissue and their pathogenic role is pivotal in consideration of the alarming increase in the prevalence of obesity and of the detrimental role that this condition exerts on the course of liver diseases. (HEPATOLOGY 2009.)