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The extracellular matrix (ECM) plays an important role in the maintenance of white adipose tissue (WAT) architecture and function, and proper ECM remodeling is critical to support WAT malleability to accomodate changes in energy storage needs. Obesity and adipocyte hypertrophy place a strain on the ECM remodeling machinery, which may promote disordered ECM and altered tissue integrity and could promote proinflammatory and cell stress signals. To explore these questions, new methods were developed to quantify omental and subcutaneous WAT tensile strength and WAT collagen content by three-dimensional confocal imaging, using collagen VI knockout mice as a methods validation tool. These methods, combined with comprehensive measurement of WAT ECM proteolytic enzymes, transcript, and blood analyte analyses, were used to identify unique pathophenotypes of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitus in obese women, using multivariate statistical modeling and univariate comparisons with weightmatched healthy obese individuals. In addition to the expected differences in inflammation and glycemic control, approximately 20 ECMrelated factors, including omental tensile strength, collagen, and enzyme transcripts, helped discriminate metabolically compromised obesity. This is consistent with the hypothesis that WAT ECM physiology is intimately linked to metabolic health in obese humans, and the studies provide new tools to explore this relationship.

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American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism