Adipose depots that contain lymph nodes, and probably intermuscular fat in skeletal and cardiac muscle, are specialized to provision adjacent tissue in a paracrine mode. Perinodal adipocytes respond selectively to various cytokines and incorporate proportionately more polyunsaturated fatty acids. Lipolysis in the adipocytes of node-containing depots can be stimulated via inflammation of the enclosed lymph nodes. Repeated immune stimulation elicits properties characteristic of perinodal adipocytes in those elsewhere in the same depot, and hours later in other node-containing depots, but not in nodeless depots. Such site-specific properties of adipose tissue enable partitioning of dietary and metabolic supplies of fatty acids between competing tissues. Local interactions emancipate the peripheral immune system from competing with other tissues for lipids during immune responses, and may be especially important during periods of high demand, such as strenuous exercise. Biopsies of subcutaneous adipose tissue from sites remote from lymph nodes do not adequately represent the composition of fatty acids available to the immune system in situ, and perhaps that supplied to other tissues. Intermuscular fat in skeletal and cardiac muscle may also indicate paracrine relationships between adipocytes and ‘end-user’ tissues. The concept of paracrine interactions between certain adipocytes and ‘user’ tissue may account for the widespread contiguity between these tissues in vivo.

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