With Type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease prevalence on the rise, there is a growing need for improved strategies to prevent or treat obesity and insulin resistance, both of which are major risk factors for these chronic diseases. Impairments in adipose tissue lipid metabolism seem to play a critical role in these disorders. In the classical picture of intracellular lipid breakdown, cytosolic lipolysis was proposed as the sole mechanism for triacylglycerol hydrolysis in adipocytes. Recent evidence suggests involvement of several hormones, membrane receptors, and intracellular signalling cascades, which has added complexity to the regulation of cytosolic lipolysis. Interestingly, a specific form of autophagy, called lipophagy, has been implicated as alternative lipolytic pathway. Defective regulation of cytosolic lipolysis and lipophagy might have substantial effects on lipid metabolism, thereby contributing to adipose tissue dysfunction, insulin resistance, and related cardiometabolic (cMet) diseases. This review will discuss recent advances in our understanding of classical lipolysis and lipophagy in adipocyte lipid metabolism under normal and pathological conditions. Furthermore, the question of whether modulation of adipocyte lipolysis and lipophagy might be a potential therapeutic target to combat cMet disorders will be addressed.
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